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Monday, August 18, 2008

Instant Runoff North Carolina: There Is No IRV Software For North Carolina's Voting Machines

North Carolina's voting machines do NOT have software needed to tabulate Instant runoff voting, according to a report by the NC State Board of Elections to legislators. But IRV proponents are saying there is and promoting IRV as a "cost saver" anyway.

In 2007 the cities of Cary and Hendersonville NC participated in an instant runoff pilot.
Cary's District B City Council race did not find a majority winner in the first round, so the "instant" runoff count was required. Hendersonville did not require a count of IRV.

Since NC's voting machines do not have software and firmware that can read or count the additional rankings, the 2nd and 3rd choices for the Cary District B contest were counted by hand:

"We knew from the outset that the board would have to sort out those first choice votes and then hand tally the second choice," said Cherie Poucher, Wake County's Board Of Elections director. Oct 30, 2007 Critics Take Runoff Concerns To Elections Board NBC 17

There was confusion during the counting of the "instant runoff" of Cary District B contest:

Debra Goldberg, who was on the Wake County Board of Elections and present for the counting of Cary's IRV ballots described the process in an email dated July 15, 2008:

"Even with the very few votes we counted in the one small race which went to a runoff during the Cary IRV pilot, complications and questions from the public arose. The process was complex and extremely time and staff intensive. I foresee a logistical nightmare scenario were IRV to be used in an election of a substantial size."

On Dec 12, 2007 the NC State Board of Elections reported back to lawmakers on the 2007 pilot:

These pilot programs serve as basic foundations for counties to continue testing the IRV method of voting on a larger scale in 2008. Consideration for funding by the General Assembly for the IRV pilot program for voter education in 2008 could contribute to the overall success of the program. Funding will be required for software development, after the pilot program is completed, if there is to be any future use of IRV voting in North Carolina elections.

In a June 17, 2008 email, Keith Long, the Voting Systems Project Manager for the NC State Board of Elections advised that there is no software:

From: Keith Long
Cc: Don Wright
Subject: RE: 2nd request plse reply FW: IRV software for NC machines?
Date: Jun 17, 2008 7:55 AM

The EAC has not approved any software. There is NO software available for the ES&S equipment to count IRV voting!

Keith Long, PMP
NC Voting Systems Director

Did everything go just fine with the IRV pilot in Hendersonville, NC? Hendersonville NC has touchscreens and they participated in the Instant runoff experiment, but - they didn't have to utilize the instant runoff counting process. They had a winner in the first round. So we don't know how "well" it would have gone.

What concerns me most about IRV on touchscreens is the "work around" that the State Board of Elections cobbled together for Henderson County. It is very complex. This work around involves a 5 page single spaced set of instructions that boggles the mind. This puts the entire outcome of the election into the hands of a single person - whoever follows those instructions. Take a look for yourself, see what I am talking about.

Instant runoff voting goes against a key principle of elections the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. Not so stupid advice. Protect elections, don't make them more complex.