Today I was reminded to update my voter registration.

Yes, Gov. Davis’ recall vote is on and scheduled for Oct. 7. Some recall opponents have said that this process is undemocratic. The usual response is, “how can an election be undemocratic?” If I wanted to be obnoxious, I could point to this one, but there are more serious objections to be raised. The simple answer is that an election can be undemocratic if the result is contrary to the preferences of a vast majority of voters. This is a distinct possibility in the case of CA’s replacement election, and it should scare any sane Californian.

As most of you probably know, the new governor (if Davis is recalled) will be the candidate on the replacement ballot who gets the most votes. Period. No runoff or anything. It’s also very easy to get on this ballot – one just needs $3,500 or 10,000 signatures. (Hmm, maybe I should run.) This arrangement makes it possible to elect what in game theory is referred to as a Condorcet loser – a candidate who would lose in a runoff against any other single candidate.

The scary scenario is that the majority of the electorate divides its vote among a large number of candidates, while some total nutjob captures all the extremists in one corner of the spectrum. If 11 candidates are running, said nutjob could be elected with just 10% of the vote, even if the remaining 90% of voters would have preferred any of the other 10 candidates. (Well, I guess we could always recall him too.)

Anyway, that would be undemocratic. Actually the political science term is “inefficient”.

Ok, so one thing is clear – since there are no primaries, any political party that wants a chance of winning should exercise an extraordinary amount of discipline and only put forward one candidate. Unfortunately for the Republicans (ha ha ha), Darrell “Please step away from the car” Issa isn’t about to back out of the race after spending $1.6 million of his personal fortune to get the election going. This is unfortunate because Issa is if anything even slimier than Bill Simon. So the Republicans need to get somebody who can actually win on the ballot – which means splitting the vote with Issa. Ah, but lots of Republicans think they are somebody who can actually win, including Richard Riordan, Jack Kemp, Bill Simon (heh), and of course Arnold Schwarzenegger. If all these guys are on the ballot, maybe Arnold has a shot depending on what the Dems do.

On the other hand, out of all these names only Issa is officially declared. Latest word from the Schwarzenegger family is that he may not run, and Riordan will only enter if Arnold’s out. So the field – among the Republicans – will probably not be so crowded as it looks now.

The Dems on the other hand are showing some unity, after apparently forgetting the meaning of the word lately. In a sense, any Democrat who appears on the replacement ballot is running against Gray Davis – voters who lean Democratic may be more likely to throw the bum out in question (a) if there’s a Democratic alternative in question (b). In a show of support for Davis, most of the likely Democratic candidates have declared that they do not intend to run, and as of now no Democrat has declared the opposite.

(I suspect the best case for the Dems is to have exactly one candidate on the replacement ballot. But how to keep others from jumping in the race once one has broken ranks?)

I intend to vote “no” on the recall purely on the grounds that an inefficient outcome in the replacement ballot is too scary. As for question (b) – we’ll see who the Democrats nominate. I wouldn’t be opposed to voting for Riordan, either, depending on who the options are.