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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

URGENT ACTION ALERT AND UPDATE: SB 1263 Instant Runoff Voting Pilot for North Carolina - same problems, same risks

“This is not a ballot, this is a portal into hell.” — Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower on instant-runoff ballots, in ”Votes and Slopes,” May 16, 2007

IRV Pilot to be voted on July 9, 2008 at 1 PM. A well intended amendment to have a 3 year pilot program for instant runoff voting was inserted in an "omnibus" election bill last week. This pilot does not address the problems from the last pilot for IRV, breaks our own laws, and will repeat the same mistakes. No funding for voter education! This plan for an IRV pilot should NOT be rushed through in the short legislative session.

To House Judiciary I: Please table Instant Runoff Voting Amendment in SB1263--It violates the Public Confidence in Elections Law!!! (see )

The message below is from Janice Sears, a concerned Wake Co resident and supporter of verified voting

Dear Verified Voting Activist, Regarding SB 1263 - the amendment to allow a 3 year pilot program for "instant runoff voting".

The bill is being heard again on Wednesday, July 9, 2008.

Three amendments were introduced at the committee meeting today by Representative Insko and Representative Bryant. I encourage you to thank them both for trying to safeguard the integrity of our votes and the vote count. Representative Insko does see how the pilot violates the Public Confidence in Elections law, which is not surprising. She helped write it. Her amendment to make the pilot non-binding--to run the pilot and do the instant runoff but not have that vote count be official so that the results could be compared to the regular runoff to see how they matched up as far as expressing the will of the voters, was not approved by the committee. Representative Stam and Representative Martin in particular seemed to think that this would be like elementary school voting and pointless. I thought it was a great idea since the pilot is supposed to be a study and this would safeguard the election outcomes since the procedures being used do violate the Public Confidence in Elections law.

We did not get to hear any discussion of Representative Insko's second amendment which was to do away with statewide runoffs on several council of state races. This is logical in view of the fact that North Carolina is one of only seven states that has statewide runoffs at this time. It would also go a long way toward making statewide use of Instant Runoff Voting a moot point. I believe that Representative Bryant's amendment was a companion amendment to Representative Insko's first amendment which was voted down. Representative Bryant was concerned with how IRV might affect minority voters.

The committee meets again tomorrow at 1:00 pm.

I also received an email from Representative Blust and he is very concerned about how the voters would be educated for such an election experiment. I wrote him back and pointed out that even though Gary Bartlett with the State Board of Elections reported today that it only cost Hendersonville $500 and Wake County $1000 in voter education, this wasn't a true picture of the cost because of groups like Fairvote and Democracy NC who are treating this issue as their pet agenda at the moment and have volunteered to conduct a massive voter education effort wherever the pilot is run. We have no assurance that they would continue such efforts should instant runoff become law and at that point the local govenments would bear the financial burden of educating voters. It cost San Francisco $1.87 per voter the first year and now five years later, there are still poll workers and voters who do not understand how to cast their votes. Grand Jury Report issued July 3, 2008

Chris Telesca did get to show Representative Bryant the report in writing from the State Board of Elections which said that instant runoff was too risky to use in any races for the primary elections this past spring. "We can use November 2007 as a pilot and not use IRV in May 2008 because it poses too much of a risk." We needed to make this point since Gary Bartlett was trying to say that our current voting machine software can handle instant runoff, even with optical scan. We found his statement surprising since we know that Hendersonville had to use an illegal work-around with their touch screens in order to count the irv votes and Raleigh had problems counting 3000 votes, and then the SBOE themselves pronounced IRV to risky to use this spring.

It was also quite informative that Anita Earles was unable to give Representative Bryant any instances of where IRV had helped minorities. Some very good points did get brought up about the shortcomings of the pilot that was conducted that really should be changed if any future study is to be done.

The lawmakers should spell out the conditions under which the pilot is to be run, how it is to be tested and evaluated and how they would measure success or failure of the pilot extension. There were several representatives who felt that the whole IRV portion of their current bill needs further study before any vote is taken. There were others who felt that since there was already a pilot conducted, there is no reason to disapprove an extension.

I did find it interesting and disturbing that we had speeches from the State Board of Elections, Perry Woods (on the pitfalls of the pilot extension and how IRV in its current state of development violates Public Confidence in Elections), Anita Earle (a civil rights attorney who coincidentally works for the same non-profit as Elena Everett--one of the most vocal proponents of IRV--who told the committee that IRV helps minorities), and an official IRV proponent, Dr. John Gilbert (the Chairman of the Wake County Board of Elections and Elena Everett's father in law).

It does seem that we should have gotten to have two people speak against IRV under these circumstances. If you are free and can go to the Judiciary 1 committee meeting tomorrow, it should be interesting to see what happens.

Phone calls to the Judiciary 1 members might be a good idea, especially if you are from their district. They really should not extend the pilot in its present state. It is impossible for them to guage the success or failure of such an experiment when there are no guidelines, no certified software, no way to do the count at the precinct level, no consistent method of voter education, heavy involvement from nonprofits who have a vested interest in the success of the pilot, no plan to measure and compare the different demographics of the voters wherever the experiment is tried, and the list goes on.

In the event that you would like to call the members of the Judiciary 1 committee yourself, here are their phone numbers and their known stance on the issues:

(Their email addresses and a sample message are at ) Ask them to pull the IRV pilot program from SB 1263.

Chairman: Deborah Ross 919-733-5773
Vice Chair: Melanie Goodwin 919-733-5823--supports the pilot extension
Vice Chair: Paul Stam 919-733-2962--opposed Insko's amendment to make pilot non-binding
Vice Chair: Bonner Stiller 919-301-1450
Martha Alexander 919-733-5807
John Blust 919-733-5781--concerned about voter education issues
Angela Bryant 919-733-5878--concerned about possible issues with minority voters
Debbie Clary 919-715-2002
Larry Hall 919-733-5872
Pricey Harrison 919-733-5771--one of original supporters of IRV amendment
George Holmes 919-733-5654
Verla Insko 919-733-7208--supports verified voting and Public Confidence in Elections
Grier Martin 919-733-5758--supports the pilot extension and didn't want it to be non-binding
Annie Mobley 919-733-5780
Roger West 919-733-5859

*email addresses and documented facts at
And once again, thanks for everything you do!