A switch to instant runoff voting could cost North Carolina taxpayers an estimated $20.3 million in the first year. Voter education could cost $2.9 million per year.
Last Tuesday North Carolina set a record low for voter turnout in the Labor Commissioner runoff. Activists are saying that the state should adopt instant runoff voting as a way to save money. The fact is, a switch to instant runoff voting could cost North Carolina taxpayers an estimated $20.3 million in the first year.
Other states such as Maryland have studied the costs of implementing instant runoff for their fiscal analysis for legislation. If the fiscal analysis prepared for Maryland lawmakers hold true, voter education alone would cost North Carolina taxpayers approximately $2.9 Million. This is based on the estimate of spending only .50 cents per registered voter per year on voter education.
These estimates do not even include the costs of purchasing new software (not yet developed) to tabulate instant runoff, or new machines, if needed.
There are other simpler less expensive ways to eliminate costly runoff elections. We can stop having statewide runoffs - 42 states don't have them, do as 45 other states do and appoint the Labor Commissioner , 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. These reforms are compatible with North Carolina's Public Confidence in Elections Law, whereas Instant Runoff is not. (See Raleigh N&O: Instant runoff voting poses problems )
Fiscal analysis by Maryland's state legislature: figures do not include the cost of buying new voting machines and or special IRV software.
Note: Maryland had 3,135,773 registered voters on Jan 22, 2008 and 3,056,657 registered voters on Oct 17, 2006 while North Carolina had 5,816,510 registered voters on June 30, 2008
Maryland Bills for IRV in 2009 and 2007 that have fiscal analysis included: the Maryland legislature estimates that costs could be as high as an additional $3.50 per registered voter in their 2006 IRV bill, and a little less in the 2008 bill which did not include the cost of software.
Fiscal Summary of two IRV bills in Maryland (none have passed)
Senate Bill 292 (Senator Pinsky, et al.)
Elections - Instant Runoff Method of Voting
This bill establishes an instant runoff method of voting intended to ensure majority rule in an election. The bill takes effect January 1, 2007.
State Effect: General fund expenditures would increase by roughly $11.1 million in FY2008 and $1.5 million in FY 2009, reflecting documentation revision, information technology, voter education, and election judge training development costs leading up to the 2008 presidential primary and general elections. General fund expenditures also would increase by $1.5 million in FY 2011 due to voter education costs prior to the 2010 gubernatorial elections. These estimates do not include costs that cannot be reliably estimated for additional staff to assist in the ballot counting process and additional voting machines possibly needed if allowing voters to rank candidates will cause significantly longer voting lines.
Local Effect: Local election boards would experience increased expenditures due to
voter education and election judge training costs.
House Bill 1502 (Delegate Hixson)
This bill establishes an instant runoff method of voting intended to ensure majority rule in an election. The bill takes effect January 1, 2009.
State Effect: General fund expenditures would increase significantly prior to the 2010 and 2012 elections to implement an instant runoff method of voting. Implementing the new method of voting is anticipated to require revisions to various aspects of the election management process and a considerable voter outreach campaign to educate voters on the new method of voting. The extent of the increase in expenditures cannot be reliably estimated at this time.
Local Effect: Local election boards are expected to also experience increased expenditures for voter outreach and for election judge training costs.
State Fiscal Effect: General fund expenditures would increase significantly leading up to the 2010 elections to implement an instant runoff method of voting, with expenditure increases expected to begin in fiscal 2009. General fund expenditures are also expected to increase prior to the 2012 elections for continued voter outreach and possibly further revisions to documentation and SBE’s election management system. The increases in costs, however, cannot be reliably estimated at this time.
SBE indicates it is difficult to determine the full extent of the changes that would need to be made to accommodate the new method of voting, though such a change would require revisions to regulations and documentation used in the election process (including judges manuals and canvassing instructions), SBE’s election management system, and election procedures. A considerable voter outreach campaign would also be required, likely including advertising through television, radio, and print media, direct mailing, and staff outreach to various organizations.
Local Fiscal Effect: Local boards are also expected to experience increased expenditures primarily due to voter education (in addition to SBE’s voter education costs) and election judge training. Local boards likely would need additional staff or would
need to hire a public relations firm to assist with voter education. In addition, SBE recommends, as a part of voter education, that a mandatory primary election specimen ballot mailer be sent to each voter to allow them to determine how they will rank
candidates prior to voting.
SBE advises that election judge training has become more complex due to added security requirements and Help America Vote Act mandates. Adding subject matter on the instant runoff method to election judge training may increase time needed for training and therefore compensation costs for the judges.
...more on costs of Instant runoff voting here