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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Instant Runoff and Gutting North Carolina's Verified Voting Law - 8 Bad Things IRV Does to NC Public Confidence in Elections

On Wed July 2, 1 PM the House Election Law Committee will hear an amendment in S 1263 to extend the Instant runoff experiment. Please say no to adding an IRV pilot to S 1263 or any other bill. The only way we can have another instant runoff experiment is to gut our Verified Voting law and to allow the use of uncertified software and cut corners on audits and election night reporting. There is no software or firmware developed to tabulate IRV, none tested or federally approved for our voting machines. Since IRV is being sold as a "cost saver" - no money will be spent to educate our nearly 6 million voters about this drastic change in our elections and many will be disenfranchised.

ACT NOW BEFORE WEDNESDAY JULY 2: email the House Election Law Committee. Below is a sample message you can send, with email addresses:;;;;;;;;;,;;;;;;,;;

House Election Law Committee Members
Chairman Rep. Goodwin, Vice Chairman, Rep. Kiser, Vice Chairman Rep. Luebke, Vice Chairman Rep. Ross, Rep. Bryant, Rep. Church, Rep. Current, Rep. Fisher, Rep. Harrison, Rep. Holmes, Rep.Justice, Rep. Lewis, Rep. Martin, Rep. Michaux, Rep. Stam, Rep. Starnes

Subject: S 1263-say no to IRV pilot

Please say no to adding an IRV pilot to S 1263 or any other bill. No more Instant Runoff Experiments.

IRV is a well intentioned idea that produces unintended consequences, and fails to deliver as promised. It does not save money, is confusing and violates the KISS principle of elections (Keep it Simple).

This is not a partisan issue, but about maintaining the integrity of our elections. Our equipment currently can not handle IRV, and it would lead to a push for more electronic voting machines, and we have seen the problem with those. IRV costs will include changes to our voting machines or software, increased ballot printing, and voter education. Many voters won't be reached by the education and most will not know enough about all of the candidates to choose 2 or 3 for each contest. This is inherently unfair to the average voter and also will harm the down ticket contests. Another IRV experiment cannot be done without gutting key provisions of the Public Confidence in Elections Law - standards that protect our state from unscrupulous voting vendors and defective voting software.

There are other simpler less expensive ways to eliminate costly runoff elections. We can stop having statewide runoffs - most states don't have them, or appoint the Labor Commissioner as do 45 other states, or adjust the thresholds for these elections. Third parties can be helped by making ballot access easier, and considering other voting methods that don't require complex tabulation.

8 ways another IRV experiment would hurt NC's verified voting law:

1. Would require the use of uncertified software or uncertified voting systems. This could result in permanent allowance for uncertified software because of "emergencies" like IRV that set a precedence to using uncertified systems/software.

2. Decrease/void vendor responsibility & accountability - how can the vendor be responsible for a system that uses untested/uncertified software?

3. Will exempt 2nd and 3rd choices on ballots from being counted at the polling place as currently required for regular ballots by NC law, putting those choices at risk of tampering after being hauled away from the polling places and put into storage. There are no election night reports/poll tapes for these results. Raw vote data was never reported by the Wake or Henderson County BoEs for the 2007 experiment.

4. Auditing will either become extremely difficult, or officials will exempt IRV elections from auditing, or meager measures will make audits meaningless. Kathy Dopp explains how IRV complicates auditing in her report about 17 Flaws in IRV

5. Recounts will be far more laborious - each round of counting must be correct before you can "recount" the next.

6. Put provisional voters at risk - Wake Co did not count provisional ballots until after the IRV rounds had been counted. Somehow they "added" the provisionals back in?( Oct 12, 2007 Recount widens Frantz lead in Cary )This does not make sense because each individual ballot must be considered to see which 2nd and 3rd choices will be counted.

7. Encourage the use of touchscreens, as the NC SBoE has already created a "workaround" with uncertified software for our touch screens that likely violates our law.

8. Discourage precinct based optical scan, as evidenced this May in Pierce County WA's failure to certify precinct optical scanners but allowance for uncertified DRE/touchscreens and central count (county office) optical scanners. See Voters Unite report on this.

Wake County miscounted just 3,000 ballots in the Cary IRV experiment, (Oct 30, 2007 Critics Take Runoff Concerns To Elections Board NBC 17) and still has trouble counting votes the plain old vanilla way. On May 6 how Wake County double counted 15,000 ballots and Mecklenburg double counted 2,000, (May 8, 2008 Mecklenburg, Wake find vote flaws News 14 Carolina, NC ) and Onslow "omitted" 4,000 ballots. (May 9, 2008 Thousands of votes missed in Tuesday tallies Jacksonville Daily News, NC ). And our voters still haven't gotten the hang of straight ticket voting after 20 years - Every four years, tens of thousands of voters who mark the "straight-party-ticket voting" option forget to also vote separately for president. ("2004 vote count smoother, still some problems" Scripps Howard News Service Dec. 22, 2004 )

Clearly we're not ready for more complex elections and the tremendous instability that IRV introduces to our elections system?

There is a precedent where IRV adoption in the US has forced the "emergency" approval of uncertified, untested IRV software in the United States:

1. San Francisco used uncertified software and after 3 years was notified that the algorithm was flawed. A study by Greg Dennis reveals unintended consequences that IRV caused in San Francisco's IRV elections and the affect of overvoted contests on next contests on ballot.

2. The Secretary of State of Washington granted "emergency" permission in May 2008 for Pierce County to use uncertified software on Seqouia machines, even though flaws were found in the WinEDS (central tabulating system). Touchscreens were certified on an emergency basis, but not the precinct optical scanners. All optical scan ballots will be hauled off to the county office to be tabulated.

3. Burlington Vermont uses some sort of uncertified software to tabulate the results from their Diebold machines.