Website Search

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Exit poll Hendersonville instant runoff voting shows mixed results

Exit poll does not prove Instant runoff voting was popular in Hendersonville NC. If anything, the exit poll provided inclusive or mixed results. 322 Hendersonville voters were surveyed. Looking at the actual data, there were more than twice as many people who said that they preferred ordinary voting as said that they'd be upset not to have IRV in future elections -- so it's not as if Hendersonville is FIRED UP for IRV. As for whether IRV actually worked, obviously the exit poll doesn't go there.

New Data Support Use Of Instant Run-Off Voting (from Press Release)December 3, 2009 ( -- New data collected as part of a North Carolina State University study during the 2009 municipal election in Hendersonville, N.C., show that voters prefer instant run-off voting (IRV) to traditional voting - a finding that may build support for IRV.

Professor Cobb's survey on IRV is available on his web page

"I recently conducted an exit poll of Hendersonville, NC, a city that used Instant Run-off Voting (IRV): Here is the survey and here are the preliminary results. Here are the 2007 findings."

So this is the actual survey, it takes up two pages of a scantron style paper
Here are the preliminary results
Here are the results of the 2007 survey of Cary and Hendersonville.
Cary has since dropped IRV.

The exit poll methodology is not yet available as of Dec 10, 2009. 322 voters responded to the poll.

Here are the instructions given to exit pollsters

Election results are posted at the State Board of Elections website here:

Hendersonville, located in the county of Henderson. (Do not confuse Hendersonville with the town of Henderson. Henderson is in Vance County and is not the town using IRV. )
Here is the Henderson County Board of Elections website

State law requires that at least one early voting location be open, and in Hendersonville, early voting would be done on the touchscreen voting machines. Early voting is considered "in person absentee voting". There is always one early voting site but more if funding and demand allow. Early voting has become more popular since our state offers same day registration during early voting only.

Voters also had the option of voting by mail, which is fairly popular in Henderson County, since this area has alot of retirees. Absentee by mail ballots are cast on optical scan ballots.

Hendersonville uses E&S iVotronic touchscreen voting machines, with a "paper trail" that prints on a cash register type roll. This is called an RTAL printer, it prints all voter selections and de-selections, and does not print a summary. The screens could be disconcerting to voters who aren't forwarned about IRV.

Here is what that ballot looked like:

Voter Education: Henderson County Board of Elections Director Beverly Cunningham described it as presentations and "educating all votersthrough the Hendersonville TimesNews, WLOS and our website."
Presentations were done at the continuing care retirement community Carolina Village (and also a polling place), city bill-pay dept, League of Women Voters presentation & the Apple Festival

Here is the 5 page single spaced set of instructions for using an excel spreadsheet to tally the IRV votes.
Experts warn that this spreadsheet tallying method is error prone, lacks an audit trail, and is not good enough for elections.
Philip B Stark Comment Exel Workaround
Tom Dahlberg Comment Exel Workaround

The spreadsheet tallying method was never used in 2007 or 2009, since a winner was found in the first round. The additional rankings were never reported or counted to the public.

At this time, we await Professor Cobb's IRV methodology as well as a reply from the NC State Board of Elections in answer to our request for all vote data.

Some questions: Did Hendersonville voters flood the polls to take advantage of the new system? Were their preferences reflected with exquisite precision? Did the system even work correctly? You won't find the answers in the exit poll results...

We have real concerns with the fact that IRV votes were considered back up votes, only to be counted or reported upon later, if it were determined that they were "needed". Votes are votes and should be counted or at least reported to the public. We also have serious concerns about the tallying method, which is not transparent to voters and is error prone.

To receive updates by email visit this link

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rebutting Rob Richie misinfo: why evoting activists oppose instant runoff voting

Instant Runoff Voting promoter Rob Richie often posts messages on the internet misrepresenting my positions regarding IRV and election integrity. Hard to believe he is a director of a well funded national organization. Since I have a long history of voting activism, it is important to clear up any such misrepresentations.

Here's an excerpt typical of one of Rob Richie's misleading and also insulting comments posted to a news article:
Joyce McCloy (the first comment posted) is the anti-IRV Captain Abab (sp)of the internet seas, relentlessly sharing bits of information that support her views while ignoring the rest. She's driven by her mistaken fear that somehow IRV will lead to touchscreens in her home state of NC even though that's not the case.

So, for all of that, Rob, here's a shot across your bow:

Joyce McCloy here. Since Rob Richie has misrepresented my position, let me clear it up.

Here's my view on how IRV is a threat to democracy, posted on the home page of my website:

"IRV violates core principles of election integrity, whether using optical scan voting systems or Direct Record/Touchscreen machines. IRV increases reliance on more complex technology, making audits and recounts more prohibitive, further eroding election transparency. Because IRV is not additive, no matter what voting system is used, the ballots, (electronic or optical scan) have to be hauled away from where they are cast to a central location to be counted. This increases the chance of fraud or lost votes. The tallying software utilizes a complex algorithm that makes the process even more opaque."

I'm not alone. Liberal Blogger Brad Friedman calls Instant runoff voting a Virus. On his blog he says: Instant Runoff Voting "Joins 'Internet Voting' and 'Vote-by-Mail' schemes as the latest bad ideas poised to further cripple American democracy"

My organization worked to get a paper ballot law passed, improved election audits, and eliminated the "no match no vote" rule that was blocking eligable voters from casting ballots. I also won the NC ACLU 2006 award. We continue to work to protect and increase the voter franchise.

To receive updates by email visit this link

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

St Paul Pro instant runoff voting group gets $5,000 fine for lying to public: dirty deeds, done dirt cheap

St Paul Better Ballot Campaign for instant runoff voting caught red handed. Three judges ruled against St Paul Better Ballot campaign on every single point, and then fined the maximum, a slap on the wrist of $5,000. Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap, that's them.
Judges rule: St Paul IRV group made knowingly false claims - $5K fine
St Paul pro instant runoff voting group showed a pattern of deliberate lying. So the pro instant runoff voting group with a name St Paul Better Ballot Campaign might more accurately be called "St Paul Deliberately Deceptive Campaign". Three judges say - the deception was deliberate, the perpetrators unashamed!....

more at the link

Isn't St Paul Better Ballots' idea of election reform just as twisted as their idea of an honest election campaign? Of course, some of the pro IRVers are already saying this isn't really a crime, just a technicality. We and the three judges just misunderstand.. Riiiiiiight.

Cheating is worth it to win for the mere price of a $5,000 fine.

New motto for IRV campaigns: "Just trust us, we'll tell you who won."

To receive updates by email visit this link

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hendersonville: Instant runoff voting No friend to voters

Is the instant runoff voting a bit Orwellian? Hendersonville voters were never asked if they wanted Instant Runoff Voting. IRV was used in Hendersonville's 2007 & 2009 municipal election. Now more voters speak up.

No friend to voters
Sunday, November 15, 2009

To The Editor: "All men are created equal but some men are more equal than others." (George Orwell, "Animal Farm," 1945).

That was fiction but now our election officials have made it a reality with IRV. No not me, Irv. IRV, Instant-Runoff Voting, is double speak for tampering with the rule of "one man, one vote." When election boards can take my vote and divide it between several candidates or decide that it belongs to a candidate for whom I did not vote, our Republic is in deep trouble. IRV may be easy and cheap, but it is wrong and it is election tampering.

Irving Kasner


In 2007 and in 2009, there was no public hearing to ask for voter input or comment before the city council adopted. Thanks to new legislation, if Hendersonville's City Council wants to partipate in instant runoff voting again,they have to hold a public hearing first. Hendersonville voters should let their City Council and County Board of Elections ( and staff ) their feelings about IRV.

To receive updates by email visit this link

Hendersonville: Instant Runoff Voting Process is not reliable

Not everyone likes instant runoff voting after all. An environmental activist in Hendersonville, North Carolina says that instant runoff voting is complicated, short changes the voter and its results do not always reflect the will of the voter.

IRV process not reliable
November 14, 2009 at 10:42 a.m.

To The Editor: I respect the work of the League of Women Voters. Their guest column favoring Instant Runoff Voting, however, begs several corrections.

The Heisman Trophy is not determined by IRV voting. They use a point system. Their system is simpler than IRV and doesn't include IRV elimination. (

IRV is not a "fair, effective method for electing a single winner." Ask Burlington, Vt. After analyzing the voting data for six weeks University of Vermont researchers concluded that the winner lost.


"The IRV process is not complicated." It was in Cary. Cary ditched it after the first try.

IRV doesn't "do everything a runoff system does." A runoff produces a majority vote candidate. If IRV goes to the third and fourth round, you get a candidate with a manufactured majority vote.

Corporations use IRV for single seat elections — secretary, treasurer — not multiple seat elections as in Hendersonville.

Yes, we do need primaries. They winnow the field allowing voters opportunity to more closely scrutinize candidates that will make important decisions.

Do the results reflect the will of the people? That is the goal of every election. With IRV, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't and that is the problem.

Eva L. Ritchey


To receive updates by email visit this link

Monday, November 2, 2009

IRV: Santa Claus, Jesus Christ and Barack Obama did NOT endorse Instant Runoff Voting

Santa Clause and Jesus Christ didn't endorse Instant Runoff Voting and neither did Barack Obama. The St Paul Better Ballots group claimed lofty pro IRV endorsements on campaign mailers. Endorsement claims range from St Paul League of Women Voters, to the State DFL Party all the way up to President Obama. The St Paul League of Women Voters asked Better Ballots to correct their literature, but were ignored. Finally, though, the pro IRV group has run into a barrier called the Minnesota State Election Law. Its about time. We've stomached these so-called "endorsements" for long enough.
Anti-IRV group calls claims of Obama, DFL endorsement ‘evil’
By Paul Demko 11/2/09

At issue is a mailing that the Saint Paul Better Ballot Campaign, which is running the pro-IRV campaign, has sent out to potential voters. It claims a wide array of supporters for the ballot measure, from President Obama to the Star Tribune to the Minnesota DFL party.

But Chuck Repke, co-chair of the No Bad Ballots Committee, charges that the claims are patently false. Under state election law, a campaign cannot claim the support of an individual unless that person has provided written permission. Clearly President Obama, Repke notes, hasn’t taken time out from his schedule to provide written support for the local ballot initiative.

“I was surprised that Santa Claus and Jesus Christ weren’t on the list,” Repke says. “You can’t be more deceptive than to claim the endorsement of the President of the United States when you don’t have it. I’m just flabbergasted.”

Repke is particularly peeved that the pro-IRV group is claiming DFL support. He notes that at the St. Paul DFL convention in March, a resolution to support the ballot measure was explicitly voted down by party activists. And in a town dominated by Democrats, the party’s purported backing could carry weight with voters.

“They cannot claim DFL endorsement,” Repke says. “These people know that. They were at the convention. I saw them there. They were standing next to me.”

To receive updates by email visit this link

Survey on Instant Runoff Voting in Hendersonville: did you understand it?

There's an Instant runoff voting in Hendersonville North Carolina, last day to vote is Tuesday November 3rd. The NC Coalition for Verified Voting is doing an informal voter survey on Instant Runoff Voting in Hendersonville. We hope to raise awareness about Instant Runoff Voting in Hendersonville North Carolina. We believe that the informal survey below is a good step in that direction. Could you please share this survey with voters as you see fit? It is also posted on the home page of our website, Thanks, Joyce McCloy, Director, NC Coalition for Verified Voting.

  1. Did you vote on election day, during early voting or absentee by mail?
  2. Did you know that you would be asked to rank choices on the ballot?
  3. Did you understand how to vote?
  4. Were the instructions clear?
  5. Did you like this new ranked choice voting method?
  6. What was source of your voter education about Instant Runoff Voting?
  7. Describe any problems you had in voting.
  8. Did you rank choices?
  9. If you ranked choices, how many did you rank?
  10. Do you understand how instant runoff votes are counted?
  11. Did you know that if your choices are not for the top two candidates, you will not be voting in the "runoff"?
  12. Did you know that your additional choices may go uncounted if there is a winner in the first round of voting?
  13. Do you want all votes, including the additional ranked choices - to be counted and publicly reported, so you can see how much support each candidate received?
  14. Do you prefer traditional one-to-one runoff elections or IRV?
    May we use your name? (Your name will be kept anonymous if you prefer)

Please email your response to and thank you for helping us.

About us: The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is a grassroots non-partisan organization fighting for clean and verified elections. We study and research the issue of voting to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen. The NC Voter Verified Coalition has consistently fought for increasing access, participation and ensuring the voter franchise. Contact Joyce McCloy, Director, N.C. Coalition for Verifiable Voting - phone 336-794-1240

To receive updates by email visit this link

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hendersonville Instant runoff voting: IRV is verified confusion

If you vote in Hendersonville's instant runoff voting election, will your vote be counted? Will your vote, all of them, count? The answer, your first choice vote will get counted, but the rest might not. You also can hurt your preferred candidate just by voting for him or her. Here's food for thought on the matter by Eva Ritchey:

IRV is verified confusion
Sunday, November 1, 2009

86/14 is not always a good number. If 86 percent of high school students choose oranges and 14 percent choose apples for dessert, that's a good number. However, if 86 percent of the bridges in the state are sound and 14 percent are inferior, that's not a good number.

Which leads us to the question, why have election officials concluded that a pilot program, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), is a good decision when 14 percent (or more) of the voters in Hendersonville's 2007 election found it confusing? Aren't clarity and confidence two requirements of an election system that should never be compromised?

In a traditionally conducted election primary, it's easy to determine the top two candidates just by counting the votes. Contrast that simplicity with IRV, which might be described as the political equivalent of musical chairs.

Using IRV, voters are asked to rank candidates in order of preference. IRV is really a tally-and-elimination scheme, re-tallying without re-voting, and repeating until a majority of votes are reshuffled into one pile.

If no one wins the "first" round of voting, then all candidates are eliminated except for the top two.

Counting and distribution is where the problem begins. History has determined that votes not counted on election night are sometimes prone to disappearance. For that reason, a state statute says, "Vote counting at the precinct shall occur immediately after the polls close and shall be continuous until completed." This was not the case in the Hendersonville 2007 election.

Any time a voter makes a selection that can affect the outcome of an election, it is a vote, not a preference. Third- and fourth-round votes cast in Hendersonville's 2007 election were not openly reported to the public because they were never counted. It's a bad practice for government to keep any expression by voters secret. Distributing remaining IRV votes is confusing, relies on more complex technology, makes audits and recounts more prohibitive, and can even change the outcome of an election away from the voter's original intent.

In the Cary experiment, the winner of an "instant runoff" in the District B Town council contest took office with less than 40 percent of the first-choice votes cast and less than 50 percent of the votes of people who showed up on election day. (

In Hendersonville, no meeting was held to get voter input or educate the voters before IRV was implemented, and over 33 percent of voters arrived without knowing it was an IRV election. The average voter has to place great trust in the reliability of the IRV counting method. Perry Woods, a Raleigh-based political consultant, says,
"Ranked choice voting violates a key principle in electoral confidence, and that is simplicity. If the desire is to eliminate runoff elections, than a plurality election will produce the same result as an IRV race in virtually every instance without the added confusion or risk."

IRV procedures as proposed will compromise the integrity of elections. Since state voting machines lack instant runoff voting capability, the State Board of Elections put together an uncertified "work-around," using a spreadsheet program, circumventing the legal method of manually sorting and counting "paper trails." Experts say this method is error prone and risky.

The cost savings IRV advocates tout are minimal and don't compensate for the erosion of transparency. Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski said it quite clearly: "Let's get right into it: instant runoff voting is not good. It's not good because it suffers from three fundamental problems: it discriminates against classes of voters by adding complexity to the ballot: it has a very real potential to produce perverse outcomes or voting paradoxes that are not majoritarian; and it fails to address the real problem that arises when multiple parties compete in a two-party system..." (3/12/09,

Can we really justify a voting system that is confusing, difficult to calculate, prone to error and fails to count every vote? Third, fourth and more place votes aren't "backup" votes as some IRV proponents define them, they're your votes and if your vote isn't counted, it doesn't count.

BlueRidgeNow has an op/ed by the Hendersonville League of Women Voters saying that they endorse IRV. And the LWV repeats the same old twisted talking points set forth by FairVote. They put out that false claim that IRV guarantees a majority of the votes. No, it is an engineered majority of the remaining votes, after many are eliminated.

Where was the LWV when Henderson County made the bad decision to purchase new touchscreens in 2006, when the rest of the United States is ditching them because of reliability factors? LWV has done many good thing but also has made mistakes. It is a shame to see the local LWV supporting something without researching it, something that that is detrimental to the voters and to election transparency.

IRV is bad, and that is why places that have recently tried it are rejecting it:

Places that Have Ditched Instant Runoff Voting or are Moving to Ditch It
-Getting rid of IRV will be on the ballot in both Aspen Colorado and Pierce County Washington.
-Cary North Carolina tried instant runoff voting in 2007 and said no more.
-British Columbia had it on the ballot this year and the majority of voters said NO!
-Georgetown University ditched IRV earlier this year.

Other jurisdictions that "adopted" IRV are not yet able to implement it because their voting machines cannot accommodate it.

see to learn more

To receive updates by email visit this link

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hendersonville Instant runoff voting in Nov - Will your vote be counted? Surprising answer

Will Hendersonville voters' instant runoff votes in the November election count or even be counted? Does Hendersonville's IRV counting method rob some voters of their say in the runoff? How will Hendersonville North Carolina tally the upcoming instant runoff voting election for Mayor and City Council? Will voters understand how votes are sorted, allocated and reallocated? Will voters help or hurt their favorite candidate by ranking choices? The answers are discouraging if you care about every vote counting, about election integrity, transparency and about fairness to voters.

I sent an email to Henderson County's Board of Elections to find out: what votes will be counted and reported, which IRV votes will be counted, and how will the IRV votes be counted and reported? Henderson BoE Director Beverly Cunningham promptly provided these answers below in 2 emails on October 16, see lower down the page.

The answer -not all Instant runoff votes get counted. It is a fact that some or all 2nd and 3rd choice votes cast will be kept secret and hidden from the public and never counted. Just because second and third round votes are not needed or utilized in determining an outcome does not mean that they were not cast by a voter. It is a bad practice for government to keep any expression by voters secret.

If there is a winner in the first round of voting, then officials will not count or even report the voters 2nd and 3rd choice votes. If there is not a winner in the first round, then only votes for the top two candidates will be considered from the 2nd round. 2nd choice votes for any other candidates will not be counted or reported.

Not only will candidates and voters be in the dark as to how much support each candidate got, but voters will not be able to look at the results and see if they hurt or helped their preferred candidates by ranking. It is a fact that Hendersonville voters can hurt their preferred candidates just by ranking them, according to Dr. Steven Brams of New York University. But if Henderson's Board of Elections does not count and report all 2nd and 3rd choice votes, we have no way to know if this happens.

Nothing about how Hendersonville's election is typical of IRV - IRV is for single seat election contests, Hendersonville is using it for multi-seat elections and thwarting the use of bullet voting also called "single shot" voting.

Downsides with Hendersonville's Instant runoff voting procedures:

1. Voters are handicapped by IRV because they do not know who the top 2 candidates are that they should vote for, so there vote might not count in the "instant runoff". In a traditional runoff, voters would all have an equal opportunity to vote for the runoff candidates.

2. Candidates, supporters and IRV advocates will not know how IRV benefited or hindered their 2nd and 3rd choice votes since Henderson's BoE doesn't plan to count or report these votes. Democracy and transparency are weakened when all votes are not counted.

Most IRV jurisdictions count and report all of the voters choices. Only Hendersonville, NC will not do so. Below is an example of how San Francisco reports all of the vote data:

Henderson BoE Director Beverly Cunningham 2 emails on October 16:

1) In Hendersonville's 2007 IRV election, did the Henderson County BoE count or record or report any of the 2nd or 3rd choice votes? No, we stop counting when a threshold of victory is met.

2) What plans does the Henderson County Board of Elections have in order to count, record and report the 2nd and 3rd choice votes for the 2009 IRV election? I understand we will follow the same procedures as explained in No. 1).

3) In the 2009 IRV election, which if any of the 2nd and 3rd choice votes will be publicly reported and or counted? Only votes needed to determine the threshold of victory will be reported.

4) Provide the method, algorithm and spreadsheet that will be used to report and tally the IRV results. Still waiting on state to provide info.

5) Provide the "rules" to sorting and re-allocating the IRV 2nd and 3rd choice votes. (this is a second request) Still waiting on state to provide info.

Beverly W. Cunningham, Director
Henderson County Board of Elections
828 697 4970

Email 2, info requests continued:

4) Provide the method, algorithm and spreadsheet that will be used to report and tally the IRV results. The method of tabulation is a manual process utilizing Microsoft Excel to augment the sorting and totaling.

5) Provide the "rules" to sorting and re-allocating the IRV 2nd and 3rd choice votes.

1. Tabulation

o Determine the two (2) candidates with the most votes that are in the instant runoff.
o The candidates retain all the votes from the 1st round of tabulation. All ballots for the contest that have votes for candidates in the runoff are removed from the tabulation (they have
already been tabulated).
o Review (2nd Choice) to determine ifthere is a vote for either runoff candidate. If yes, add the vote to therunoff candidate and no further examination of the ballot is necessary.
o If there is no vote for either runoff candidate in (2ndChoice) then
review (3rd Choice) to determine if there is a vote for a runoff candidate.
If yes, add the vote to the runoff candidate and no further examination of the ballot is necessary.
o End of ballot examination. The runoff candidate with the most votes is declared the winner.

Beverly W. Cunningham,Director
Henderson County Board of Elections
828 697 4970

Hendersonville Contests and Candidates for November IRV election:

Timm Kurtz
Mary Jo Padgett
Barbara G. Volk

Diane Caldwell
Jeff Collis
Ralph Freeman
Jerry Smith
Ron Stephens

Want to see what Hendersonville's ballot will look like?

If you vote in person, you will cast your ballot on a touchscreen machine. Here are screen shots of that ballot. Its easy to see how confusing the ballot would be when presented on a touchscreen machine.

If you cast an absentee by mail ballot, here is a copy of the paper ballot and some information: CITY OF HENDERSONVILLE w/ Instant Runoff Voting

About us: The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is a grassroots non-partisan organization fighting for clean and verified elections. We study and research the issue of voting to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen. The NC Voter Verified Coalition has consistently fought for increasing access, participation and ensuring the voter franchise. Contact Joyce McCloy, Director, N.C. Coalition for Verifiable Voting - phone 336-794-1240 website and also

To receive updates by email visit this link

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Instant Runoff Voting Not So Good Polls: Cary NC, Hendersonville NC, Pierce Co WA, and San Francisco

FairVote touts polls saying that many voters like instant runoff voting. The idea is that if you like something, don't worry, be happy. FairVote does not mention that a significant number of voters do not understand IRV (whether they say they like it or not). While IRV might be "fun", if people don't understand it then they don't benefit from it and may have their vote count for less than other voters' ballots. If a voting method disenfranchise vulnerable segments of our voting population, then we shouldn't use it. We may like the taste of anti-freeze, but we shouldn't drink it.

Do voters understand Instant Runoff Voting? Here's what some polls say:
Cary, North Carolina tried Instant Runoff Voting in 2007
and said No More. The results of Cary NC’s 2008 bi-annual citizen survey indicate that a significant percent of voters do not understand IRV. The mean was 5.83 with 58.6% on the “understand” side (above 5) of the scale and 30.6% on the “not understand” side (Figure 19). This includes 22.0% who indicated they do not understand at all. Overall this indicates a degree of misunderstanding among the respondents. Keep in mind that Cary is the city with the most Ph.D.s per capita in the U.S. for towns larger than 75,000 people.
There also was an exit poll of voters conducted by Fair Vote and other volunteers. One volunteer even boasted of helping to shape voters views of IRV. See
Slanting the exit poll of Cary's instant runoff voting election

Hendersonville, North Carolina participated in the 2007 IRV pilot.
This town of "snow birds" never counted the IRV votes. Some voters went to the polls and didn't even realize they were ranking choices (Hendersonville votes on touchscreens), and some were surprised, IRV was deemed a success. An exit poll (conducted using IRV advocates) admits that one third of voters polled came to the polls unprepared to rank their choices. Hendersonville will use the single contest method IRV for their multi-seat elections again and thwart any efforts for bullet voting.

Pierce County Washington adopted instant runoff voting/aka ranked choice voting and tried it one time.
56,751 of 90,738 Pierce County Voters polled said they did not like instant runoff voting. In May of this year, the Pierce County Auditor found that IRV was costing too much and the county could save $600,000 if they scrapped instant runoff voting asap. This November voters will consider an amendment to the county charter repealing ranked choice voting.

Take a look at some of the findings in these studies of San Francisco’s 2004 & 2005 IRV election, conducted by the Public Research Institute at San Francisco State University:
An Assessment of Ranked-Choice Voting in the San Francisco 2004 Election
The majority of voters appear to have made the transition to Ranked-Choice Voting with little problem: about seven out of eight we surveyed said that, overall, they understood it "fairly well" or "perfectly well."
However, that leaves one in eight who expressed some lack of understanding.
…We found differences across racial and ethnic groups in regard to their prior knowledge of RCV, their overall understanding, and their propensity to rank candidates on the ballot.

2005 was worse for voters than 2004:
An Assessment of Ranked-Choice Voting in the San Francisco 2005 Election (pdf)
IRV was re-named Ranked-Choice Voting because it can take days or weeks to get the results.
Prior Knowledge of Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV)
- A narrow majority of voters surveyed (54%) knew before voting that they would be asked to rank candidates for City Treasurer and Assessor in the 2005 election.
- The proportion of voters who had prior knowledge of RCV was lower in 2005 (54%) than in the 2004 election for the Board of Supervisors (67%).
- Those with lower rates of prior knowledge tended to be those who were less educated, reported having lower incomes, and spoke a primary language other than Spanish.
- African Americans were considerably less likely than other racial and ethnic groups (41.9%) to know they would be ranking their choices for these offices.
-The majority of voters reported ranking three candidates in the race for City Treasurer (57%), while 33% reported selecting only one candidate.*
*That means that in the event the first choice does not win, 33% do not participate in the "run-off".

So it looks like instant runoff voting hurts the vulnerable populations that we normally try hard to assist.

Then there's this, 3 years later:
Grand jury report
*The 2007-2008 San Francisco Civil Grand Jury review of five elections for the city/county of San Francisco*
Ranked-Choice Voting and Absentee (Vote By Mail) Ballots RCV ballots were used in the November 2007 election for the offices of Mayor, District Attorney, and Sheriff. *Some pollworkers and voters told the Jury that they did not understand how to vote for candidates where RCV ballots were used... Additional education and outreach need to be provided to the voters to clarify the RCV process so that the ballots accurately reflect the intentions of the voters.

Rebutting FairVote misinfo on Cary, NC - Cary ditched IRV and is still glad

Rob Richie is doing his hard sell of Instant Runoff Voting again, claiming that poor, poor Cary North Carolina will have to suffer a one-to-one traditional runoff election. (All because they rejected IRV after using it once in 2007). How dare the little ole' city of Cary, North Carolina ignore the good advice of the FairVote and Rob Richie, who know what is better for everyone? Cary only has the most PHDs per capita for cities with population over 75,000. In one email, Rob Richie blamed the decision on politics, calling Cary, NC, a "Republican-leaning city." Using FairVote logic, can we assume that using IRV turned Cary into a "Republican-leaning city"? May I inject an "LOL" here? Neither candidate for Cary's runoff is complaining, not the republican candidate nor the democratic challenger. Nor are their colleagues complaining.

Voters are looking forward to the face off. The field has been narrowed from 4 candidates to 2. The only trauma is for Rob Richie, who uses any adoption of IRV as a "victory" to use to persuade other places to adopt it. He's seeing defeat
as places continue to ditch IRV or are considering ditching it.
Here's Rob Richie's latest spin - which has already caused some people to email me and ask "what universe is RR living in?"

Runoff misery from New York City to Cary (NC) builds support for instant runoff voting October 10th, 2009. Rob Richie ...Cary’s city council voted to try IRV in 2007, and its voters overwhelmingly supported it.

The misery is Rob Richie's alone. Cary North Carolina was rushed into the decision to try IRV 2007. After Cary found out what IRV really was like, they decided not to do it again.

Cary's choice to try IRV in 2007 was a rush job: In 2007, the Wake County NC Board of Elections voted to volunteer for the IRV pilot. The City Council made a quick decision to give it a try. Cary voters were not involved in the decision and there was definite controversy after the decision was made. Two years later, Cary considered the matter again, and held several public meetings. see
Cary NC tries IRV, then says ‘no more’ At Cary NC's City Council meeting on April 30, 2009, Cary City Council member Don Frantz reflected on the problem with the 2007 decision. He said:

"When our town agreed to IRV in 2007, it was kind of rush job..There was a lot of pushback, the public wasn’t involved …"
Rob Richie says but Cary voters polled loved IRV:

More than 70% of voters preferred IRV to their former runoff system in a North Carolina State exit poll, and a full poll conducted by Cary in 2008 affirmed an overwhelming preference for using IRV again rather than keeping the traditional runoff system — indeed, on a scale of to 9, with 1 being most opposed to 9 being most in favor, 67.1%indicated a 7 or higher (including 51% indicating the highest level of 9) while only 6.9% indicated 3 or less.

But liking does not = understanding. Liking does not = good practice.
At one time the majority of people liked literacy tests for voters, poll taxes, and butterfly ballots.
The fact is, a significant number of Cary voters did not understand instant runoff voting. When 22% just don't understand IRV at all, then it is just another glorified butterfly ballot, or a literacy test, 21st century style. Rob Richie also doesn't tell you how a FairVote employee admitted slanting the exit polling in Cary - see
Slanting the exit poll of Cary's instant runoff voting election

Cary's Bi-Annual Survey says: 22% polled did not understand IRV at all.

See Instant Runoff Voting Not So Good Polls: Cary NC, Hendersonville NC, Pierce Co WA, and San Francisco

The results of Cary NC’s 2008 bi-annual citizen survey indicate that a significant percent of voters do not understand IRV. The mean was 5.83 with 58.6% on the “understand” side (above 5) of the scale and 30.6% on the “not understand” side (Figure 19). This includes 22.0% who indicated they do not understand at all. Overall this indicates a degree of misunderstanding among the respondents. Keep in mind that Cary is the city with the most Ph.D.s per capita in the U.S. for towns larger than 75,000 people.

Rob Richie again:

Furthermore, the county’s board of elections indicated its support for administering its new system, reporting that it saved more than $20,000 by avoiding a second-round runoff in one city council race.
Why did the Wake County Board of Elections support Instant Runoff Voting?
The then, now former
Chairman of the Wake BoE was a active advocate of instant runoff voting. he even traveled to Minnesota to support IRV to a MN State Legislative Committee. His daughter-in-law, Elena Everett was the Director of Instant Runoff Voting, FairVote NC and worked very hard to promote IRV. While both are good people, they could hardly be objective.

Rob Richie continues to try to create "controversy" where there is none:
...The result in Cary fall on the heels of controversy stirred up in New York City by a hugely expensive, citywide runoff last month that was marked by bitter attacks between candidates before the runoff and a turnout of less than 8% of registered Democrats deciding two nominees....

Candidate Lori Bush looks forward to running in the upcoming runoff election:

No clear District A winner in Cary Oct 7, 2009.
Bush watched the election returns with a few dozen supporters at her home. She said it was nerve-racking to watch the votes come in. "I'm absolutely thrilled," she said. "This means it's one on one. It's time for us to show our clear differences to the voters of Cary."She said she hopes to engage Robinson in a series of debates for the runoff.

Don Frantz, Cary City Council member was asked if he regretted ditching IRV since his colleague, Julie Robinson is facing a runoff election. From the Cary Politics message board, Don Frantz answers a poster's question - does Don regret ditching IRV:

Re: Oct 6 2009 Election Predictions
Quote: Originally Posted by ncary42long

Don F, would you reconsider IRV again if Jennifer loses the runoff, knowing that she would have had a greater chance of winning this election with it? Just curious. Ruth

Why ask me?
Ask all of council as we are the ones who decided to not utilize IRV in Cary elections.But my answer is "no". I do not like instant runoff voting and have given my reasons as to why many times. I'll take in elections over funny math and 30% voter confusion any day. You also assume the initial results would be the same if IRV had been utilized. I don't believe that would be the case. __________________Don

Don Frantz was the candidate running for Cary City Council in 2007 whose contest was decided by the IRV votes in the 2nd and 3rd round. He is the only candidate in the state whose election outcome was decided by IRV. Don described his face to face experience explaining IRV to voters:

USA Today. Oct 17, 2007 To stem runoff votes, new ballots have voters rank top 3
Winning candidate Frantz said he heard from many confused voters on thecampaign trail ."I found myself, when I was at some places, that's all I was doing …explaining the new voting system," he said.
So please everyone remember, the outrage is all Rob Richie's and not that of Cary, North Carolina's. For further reading enjoyment, read How FairVote IRV propaganda has been very effective also read (more current) Responding to Rob Richie, IRV advocate

It is very easy to vote in North Carolina, we have 2 1/2 weeks of early voting, we have "no excuse" absentee by mail, and we have plenty of polling places with accessible entrances and accessible voting machines. If voters care about this election, they will vote.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Issues with Hendersonville's Instant Runoff Voting Pilot

Hendersonville North Carolina has volunteered for a second time to participate in the instant runoff voting pilot. They volunteered in 2007 but never counted the IRV votes in that election. Cary, North Carolina volunteered in 2007, had to count the IRV votes, and after several public meetings and much thought - ditched the system. See Cary NC tries IRV, then says ‘no more’
Hendersonville has not had meetings to invite public input.

The compromises IRV forces are highly toxic to election transparency and to create barriers to vulnerable segments of the population. The current guidelines and procedures for the Instant Runoff Voting pilot violate key values of election transparency and weaken the standards of the hard fought for and nationally acclaimed Public Confidence in Elections Act passed in 2005.

What is Instant Runoff? Instant-runoff voting (IRV) is a voting system intended for single-winner elections in which voters can rank candidates in order of preference. Hendersonville is using IRV for a multi seat contest because they just don't know any better and some of the candidates want to avoid a runoff election. IRV isn't instant to count - it can take days to figure out who won the election. All votes are not counted - only votes for the "top two" candidates are. It does not produce the same results as a runoff election, either.

Hendersonville participated in the 2007 IRV pilot, and since no computers burst into flames it was deemed a success. An exit poll (conducted using IRV advocates) said that one third of voters polled came to the polls unprepared to rank their choices, but thats ok in the minds of IRV advocates. In that election, the threshold to win was only 25%, and voters voted for 2 candidates in first round. Voters chose their top two candidates for the two open seats, as usual. Then they ranked the other three candidates by preference. There is very little chance that any of the "IRV" votes will ever come into play.

The Instant Runoff Voting Pilot is bad for Verified Voting. IRV is not "additive", so it increases reliance on more complex and bleeding edge technology and requires the central counting of votes. Central counting means hauling ballots away from the polling place to be counted elsewhere at a later time. This is in direct conflict with North Carolina statute § 163-182.2. and opens elections up to the risks of ballot box stuffing or tampering.

The procedures to tabulate IRV in touch-screen jurisdictions cut corners on election transparency. Since there is no federally certified software to tabulate IRV votes, the State Board of Elections has devised a work around. This "workaround" employs a spreadsheet using a 5 page single spaced algorithm to tabulate the votes. The NC Coalition for Verified Voting argues that this uncertified "workaround" is an encroachment on the hard fought for and nationally acclaimed standards of SL 323, The Public Confidence in Elections Law Certified voting systems are required per § 163-165.7.(2) "That the voting system comply with all federal requirements for voting systems." These standards were put into place to protect our elections from the types of failures we suffered in the past.I

RV is even more complicated when using touch-screen voting machines.
Hendersonville voters will once again have the disconcerting experience of casting an IRV ballot on touch-screen voting machines. With touchscreens, the voters will see a field of choices, make their selection, and then go to the next page. On the next page they will see the same candidates names - again. Voters may experience confusion wondering if they made a mistake in paging through the ballot.

Doing manual recounts or audits of complex IRV ballots on the long paper trail rolls would be difficult if not impossible, since these printouts do not have a ballot summary. Until the touchscreens print a simple voter verified ballot summary, IRV shouldn't even be considered, or Hendersonville should agree to use paper or optical scan ballots instead. Unfortunately, it seems as if the purpose of IRV IS to unravel the high standards set by the Public Confidence in Elections Act.

Berkely Professor Philip B Stark strongly advises against the use of a spreadsheet to tally IRV saying that "Spreadsheets mix data and programming. It is not possible to tell at a glance whether a cell in a spreadsheet is data or the result of a calculation. As a result, it is quite easy--deliberately or inadvertently--to corrupt a calculation or the data on which it is based. In principle that can be detected, but it requires additional scrutiny--such as clicking each cell and looking at what is displayed. And even that is not foolproof.

"Tom Dahlberg of Dahlberg Business Logic Inc. (his business IS spreadsheets) warns: "How can the state prove, to those who have standing (all voters) consistent with the compelling state interest, that the automation is working properly and not committing fraud? And who has the burden of proof if not the election officials responsible for the integrity of the process?"
The counting of IRV is complex — the elimination of some candidates at the end of the first round means that second choice votes are transferred to other candidates. If a third round is required the elimination and transfer process continues. The average voter has to place great trust in the reliability of the counting algorithm in a way far beyond what is necessary in plurality voting. So the counting is opaque and non-transparent — a kind of voting voodoo with election officials in the role of witch doctor producing the magical results. If one believes strongly that the average voter should be able to understand and observe the counting of votes in a democracy, then IRV fails to meet this standard.

IRV will disenfranchise some voters. Voters must choose their runoff choices before they know which candidates will be “in” the runoff. With IRV, if there is no winner in the “first round” of counting, only the top two candidates stay in the contest. Some voters’ choices will not be among the top two that go on to a runoff or the second round of counting, and their vote will never be counted.

There is still no provision to ensure that all votes will be recorded, transparent, and made public. Aside from the policy questions raised by keeping cast votes secret and away from the public, this makes evaluating any pilot problematic because that data is needed to make any scientific analysis.

IRV has proven to be a very flawed election form, even when used as it is intended, in a single winner election. The recent Burlington Vermont mayoral election exhibited paradoxes where IRV likely thwarted the will of the voters. See March 12th, 2009 Voting Paradoxes and Perverse Outcomes: Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski Lays Out A Case Against Instant Runoff Voting Also see Burlington Instant Runoff Election riddled with pathologies The instant runoff election in Burlington,Vermont suffered from nearly every pathology in the book! Non monotonicity, the spoiler effect, the no show effect, and majority failure.

Instant Runoff Voting discriminates against classes of voters

Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski, Supervisor for the Vermont Legislative Research Shop has analyzed the exit poll data of the recent Burlington, Vermont Mayoral Election. The Vermont Daily Briefing has an article up by Gierzynski, here's an excerpt:

March 12th, 2009 Voting Paradoxes and Perverse Outcomes: Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski Lays Out A Case Against Instant Runoff Voting Let’s get right into it: Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is not good. It is not good because it suffers from three fundamental problems: it discriminates against classes of voters by adding complexity the ballot; it has a very real potential to produce perverse outcomes or voting paradoxes that are not majoritarian; and it fails to address the real problem that arises when multiple parties compete in a two-party system.....

The effect of adding such complexity to the ballot is not neutral or random; it is more likely to confuse those same groups of disadvantaged voters confused by the Florida ballots. This fact was demonstrated by exit polls of both Burlington voters and San Francisco voters who have also used IRV.

Even when used in a single contest, IRV caused greater confusion among those on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. In other words, IRV discriminates. Proponents of IRV like to frame this argument by countering that what critics of IRV are saying is that voters are stupid. We are saying no such thing.

These analyses are not impugning the intelligence of the American voter, just recognizing the limits to what a political system can ask of its citizens and recognizing that adding complexity to the ballot will disproportionately harm some groups of people more than others ... (more at the link )

Instant Runoff Voting does not even produce a majority winner most of the time:
Saturday, March 7, 2009 No Majority Winner in Instant Runoff Voting election in Burlington Vermont Mayoral Contest December 7, 2008 2 out of 3 Pierce County RCV "winners" don't have a true majority In Consistent Majority Failure in San Francisco's Instant Runoff Voting Elections. , a review of the results for San Francisco Ranked Choice Voting elections shows that IRV elects a plurality winner. These results are remarkably consistent. Out of 20 RCV elections that have been held since the referendum establishing it passed, when IRV was used, it elected a plurality winner

Regardless of how you feel about Instant Runoff Voting, current pilots cannot ensure the integrity of an election. The pilot sets a damaging precedent - where IRV votes are not counted and reported on election night, where uncertified error prone work-arounds are used to tally the IRV votes, and where some or even all of the IRV votes may go uncounted and unreported. This opens elections up to inaccuracy and fraud. The cost savings that IRV advocates tout are minimal at best and do not compensate for the erosion of election transparency. While we do hold our election officials in high esteem, the confidence in our elections can have no other basis than the transparency and integrity of the process.

The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is a grassroots non-partisan organization fighting for clean and verified elections. We study and research the issue of voting to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen. The NC Voter Verified Coalition has consistently fought for increasing access, participation and ensuring the voter franchise. Contact Joyce McCloy, Director, N.C. Coalition for Verifiable Voting - email joyce (at ) or phone 336-794-1240

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Traditional Runoff Elections vs Instant Runoff Voting

Which are better for democracy, traditional on-on-one runoff elections or instant runoff voting elections? Some instant runoff voting proponents claim that runoff elections are an obstacle to voter turnout. That may have been true 20 years ago, but today we have early voting, no excuse vote-by-mail, election day voting, and we even have same day registration during early voting.

In fact, IRV appears to be a barrier to voters, a sort of 21st century form of a literacy test: An exit poll (conducted using IRV advocates) of Hendersonville NC voters in 2007 indicated that one third of voters came to the polls unprepared to rank their choices. In Cary, North Carolina's 2008 bi-annual citizen survey, 30.6% did not understand IRV, and 22.0% polled did not understand IRV at all. That is shocking when you consider that Cary has the most Ph.D.s per capita in the U.S. for towns larger than 75,000 people

In North Carolina, some community leaders are outspoken in their opposition to IRV and in preference of traditional runoff elections. Take a look at these three traditional runoff elections in North Carolina, where minority candidates were the winners:

1) Rocky Mount, NC, City Council Race Ward B. Lois Watkins v Tom Looney, Nov 2007.

The city of Rocky Mt NC held a runoff election for the Ward B City Council race because the Oct 9 election didn't produce a clear winner. The traditional runoff election, held Tuesday, Nov. 6 2007 ended up having a higher turnout than the October election.

Incumbent Lois Watkins trailed Tom Looney in the October election, but came back to nearly doubled her vote count in the runoff, easily defeating Looney.

The turnout for the Ward B Contest in October was 1,230 voters, and in increased to 1,678 votes in the November runoff. Many of the 1,678 votes were cast during no-excuse, one-stop voting.

Election Facts:

Lois Watkins - African American . Beat challenger Tom Looney by 320 votes in the runoff election. She raised $13,000 for her campaign,

Tom Looney, Caucasian raised $77,000 for his campaign.

2) Durham North Carolina Mayoral Contest, Nov 2005. William Bill Bell v Jonathan Alston

(Both candidates are African American). Turnout was higher in the November runoff election. Mayor Bell was re-elected with 85% of the vote.

"Meeker Re-Elected Raleigh Mayor; Road, Housing Bonds Pass" Oct 12, 2005 ...Instead, incumbent William V. Bell will face Jonathan Alston in the general election on Nov. 11 and go for his third term in office.


OCTOBER 11, 2005


WILLIAM V. "BILL" BELL . . . . . . 11,333 88.00
VINCENT BROWN . . . . . . . . . WITHDREW
JACQUELINE D. WAGSTAFF . . . . . . 567 4.40
JONATHAN ALSTON . . . . . . . . . . 787 6.11

NOVEMBER 8, 2005

DURHAM CITY MAYOR JONATHAN ALSTON . . . . . . . . 3,007 14.06
WILLIAM V. BILL BELL. . . . . . . 18,171 84.98
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205 .96

3) Rocky Mount, NC City Council Ward 1, Andre Knight vs Kelvin Barnhill in 2003

Municipal races stir rumors August 20, 2006... Six candidates filed to run for Ward 1 in 2003, and Knight said he expects several people will run again in 2007. Knight said he will run for re-election in the ward. And Kelvin Barnhill, who lost to Knight in a runoff in 2003, said he may enter next year's race.

With traditional runoff elections, voters have a chance to learn more about the strongest candidates. With IRV, you may your choice blindfolded, not knowing whether you will help or hurt your preferred candidate or which candidates will be in the "runoff".

Friday, July 24, 2009

MPR error in Instant Runoff Voting story - North Carolina info WRONG

In story about instant runoff voting, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) cites Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie as saying that 10 cities in North Carolina are experimenting with IRV. That just isn't true. There were 2 volunteer cities/towns in 2007, now there is only 1 volunteer in 2009. The citation is not a direct quote, but attributes statements or ideas to the honorable SOS Ritchie.

Ritchie watching IRV in Minneapolis, other states July 22, 2009 ...Ritchie said he's been watching how IRV is being used in other states. He said North Carolina is experimenting with ranked choice voting in 10 cities of different sizes and different demographics.

There is only one town in North Carolina experimenting with IRV in 2009, the little town of Hendersonville. IRV is retreating in North Carolina, not expanding, and other jurisdictions are considering abandoning the method as well. And THAT is the real story. More on this here

*****UPDATE**** at 6:46 PM eastern, the reporter emailed me to advise the article has been corrected in the web article. We hope that for future stories on IRV, at least pertaining to North Carolina, that MPR or any other media will contact the NC Coalition for Verified Voting, the NC State Board of Elections, or perhaps candidates who have participated in the IRV elections for information.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Will San Francisco Ditch Instant Runoff Voting? It is quite possible.

Will San Francisco put Instant Runoff Voting out of its misery? A possible repeal of Instant runoff voting was discussed by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce at a meeting last Thursday, June 18th. Time Redmond of the San Francisco Bay Guardian reports on this in
Will downtown go after IRV? and Rob Richie of Fair Vote blogs at HuffPo, complaining that business groups want to ditch IRV, and that a poll shows that voters are agreeable:
Lessons from downtown business attacks on instant runoff voting in San Francisco

San Francisco has given instant runoff voting a 5 year long chance to prove its worth. The City has spent a fortune for specialized voting machines that have yet to meet state standards for voting systems, machines that haven't been federally certified, spent a fortune training poll workers and educating voters only to be told by a Grand Jury that it isn't enough and more is needed. SF even adjusted campaign finance laws. After letting IRV play out to the max - IRV has not worked as advertised.

After 5 years of Instant Runoff Voting, are San Francisco voters attached to IRV?
In 2007, many SF Voters did not utilize the option to rank choices. 94% of absentee voters did not list 3 choices on their ballots in the November municipal election, even though the field of candidates for mayor was large. There was confusion over ranking. According to a Nov 8, 2007 Electionline report , "Voters also questioned the value of ranked-choice voting." "There are a lot of people who only mark one [candidate] or the same person three times," ..."I don't want to vote for a second one, I want this one."

Since implementing IRV, San Francisco's election costs have escalated

2000-2001 Actual 9,024,000
2001-2002 Actual 13,872,000 includes the cost of $1,322,849 for a runoff election & $150,000 due to litigation costs
2002-2003 Actual 8,610,553
2003-2004 Actual 15,204,781
2004-2005 Actual 10,400,868
2005-2006 Actual 11,930,228
2006-2007 Actual 10,062,052
2007-2008 Actual 14,839,686

Sometimes mistakes have to be owned up to. This is that time. It is time for San Francisco to cut its losses, ditch instant runoff voting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fact Checking FairVote NC blog about Instant Runoff in North Carolina

FairVote NC's blog misreports the status of instant runoff voting in North Carolina. In their June 17th blog they boast of how Hendersonville North Carolina volunteered for the IRV pilot again (that bit is true) but FairVote wrongly claims that the Town of Cary is considering IRV for 2009 and that 8 other cities are considering doing so. FairVote NC gets several facts wrong. From FairVote NC's blog dated June 17, 2009:

"Hendersonville has already decided to retain IRV for their 2009 elections, and Cary is also considering doing so. Following in suit, 8 other cities in North Carolina are considering implementing IRV."

The fact is, the Cary Town Council made their decision on April 30th, 2009, about a month and a half ago to ditch IRV. Further, Doesn't Fair Vote know the law? If Cary, or the "8 other cities" wanted to make a last ditch try for IRV, by law they had to do it by May 6th. This is explained in a May 4th email from the NC State Board of Elections:

"Because the statutory start of filing (first Friday in July at noon) falls on a legal holiday, filing (this year) starts Monday morning July 6 when county offices open. That would make May 6th the deadline for a municipality to make a decision to use IRV." - email from Don Wright, General Counsel for the NC State Board of Elections, dated 5/04/2009.

Also in their blog, FairVote NC boasts that voters preferred IRV:
In both cities, a vast majority of voters preferred IRV to the traditional runoff system (according to a scientific survey conducted by Dr. Michael Cobb at NC State).

Yes, many said they liked IRV, but this survey was conducted by advocates for IRV who could not be considered objective pollsters. FairVote NC fails to make any mention of the results of Cary NC's 2008 bi-annual citizen survey, where it turns out a significant percent of voters do not understand IRV:

The results indicate there was a level of misunderstanding among the respondents. The mean was 5.83 with 58.6% on the “understand” side (above 5) of the scale and 30.6% on the “not understand” side (Figure 19). This includes 22.0% who indicated they do not understand at all. Overall this indicates a degree of misunderstanding among the respondents. The respondents were next asked their support for using the Instant Runoff Voting Method using a 9-point scale from not supportive at all (1) to very supportive(9). The respondents were also informed the use of the method would save Cary taxpayers approximately $28,000 by not having to hold a physical runoff election. Table 63 shows there is a relatively high level of support for using the method. The mean was 7.21 with 68.8 on the “support” side of the scale versus only 7.2% on the “no support” side

In Summary:
30.6% did not understand IRV
22.0% did not understand IRV at all
68.8% said they supported IRV after being told it would save money.

What does this say about IRV as an election method that 22% did not understand IRV at all? Consider that Cary has the most Ph.D.s per capita in the U.S. for towns larger than 75,000 people. Clearly folks had a gut reaction to the claim that IRV would save money. The problem is that this claim was not supported by any fiscal analysis, nor were voters told of other ways to save money on elections such as changing to the plurality method for example. Nor were voters given any reason to consider that perhaps saving money on elections should not be the reason to drastically change election methods. The survey was planted the idea cutting costs on elections as being beneficial, and then attempted to tie IRV in as the way to accomplish that. In the end, the real costs of IRV showed themselves -the survey proved that this election method was not understood by a significant portion of the voters. Enough to make a difference in the outcome of an election.

Just chalk up FairVote NC's blog today as typical FairVote talking points that like IRV, do not live up to their claims. Today's misinfo is one more reason to think twice about what FairVote is promoting. More claims that do not hold water.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Star Trek Captain Explains Instant Runoff Voting in Video

Here's a great video explaining instant runoff voting. IRV is alot like a card game invented by Star Trek Captain James T Kirk. If you understand Kirk's Fizzbin, you will understand instant runoff voting. It gets a little rough near the end of the video..... but is a riot to watch.

Educating and entertaining video helps explain IRV rules

There is a wiki article that provides background on Fizzbin:

Fizzbin is a fictional card game created by Kirk in the Original Series episode "A Piece of the Action". While being held hostage on Sigma Iotia II with Spock and McCoy, he spontaneously invented a confusing card game to distract the henchmen guarding them.

The rules were intentionally very complex....

more at the link

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fayetteville NC turns down Instant Runoff Voting

The Fayetteville City Council chose not to be a guinea pig for instant runoff voting in this year's elections. NC Verified Voting applauds the City Council for their prudence. IRV would be especially complex to tally in Fayetteville because the city uses two different voting systems in their elections. Fayetteville voters cast ballots on both optical scan and touchscreen voting systems. These two voting systems collect vote tallies differently. On top of that, there is no software to tally IRV ballots.
Fayetteville made a wise choice. Consider that Instant Runoff was a disaster in Cary North Carolina . That town had trouble counting just 3,000 IRV ballots on optical scan ballots. The Cary Town Council chose not to use IRV this year. Unfortunately, the Fayetteville Observer unquestioningly repeats the incorrect claim that IRV would save money. IRV saves money alright, just like getting a free pony saves money. Someone has to pay for the feed and upkeep, free or not.

Fayetteville skips instant runoff voting opportunity - ‎May 29, 2009‎

...The Fayetteville City Council decided against participating in the state’s pilot program this fall. The program would have eliminated the city primary, which will be Oct. 6.

The city, which holds elections biannually in odd-numbered years, usually needs a primary for some of its council districts. The two candidates with the most votes in each primary contest advance to the general election in November.

Mayor Tony Chavonne said he discussed the idea with other council members in recent weeks, and the consensus was to pass on the idea.

“It’s so complicated, we didn’t think we had enough time to understand it ourselves, much less educate citizens about it,” Chavonne said...

1. NC's voting machines DO NOT have the software to tabulate Instant runoff voting, according to a report by the NC State Board of Elections to legislators.
2. IRV DOES NOT SAVE MONEY. IRV has hidden but very expensive costs. See fiscal analysis by other statesThere is the cost of the new machines, software, procedural and policy changes, training, and voter education.
3. IRV often fails to find a majority winner and often the final winner is the same candidate who had most votes in the first round.
See Cary IRV election results for Oct. 2007. After running voters 1, 2n and 3rd choices, Don Frantz obtained 1,401 votes,which is 46.36% of all votes cast in the Cary District B contest. Also see majority failure
4. Requires the Central Counting of votes. IRV is not additive so cannot be tallied at the polling place. There is no such thing as a "subtotal" in IRV. In IRV every single vote may have to be sent individually to the central agency (1,000,000·N numbers, i.e. 1000 times more communication)That means moving votes before they are counted, violating a key principle of election integrity.
Instant Runoff Voting violates a key principle of elections, the Kiss principle.
"We are taught that we live in a democracy. But we can not know that we do unless we are eternally vigilant, and keep a close watch on our elections and how the votes are counted. Otherwise, we can not know, but only have faith, that we live in a democracy." - Andy Silver, Co-Founder of the NC Coalition for Verified Voting.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Minneapolis drank the instant runoff voting kool-aid, now they are sorry

Instant gratification - delayed, in fact denied. Minneapolis' City Council learns that thanks to instant runoff voting, it may be weeks to possibly 2 months before they know the outcome of this years' municipal elections.

Elections director says instant runoff tallies could take weeks to count by Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio May 21, 2009 Members of the Minneapolis City Council found out today that they'll likely have to wait a month or more after election day to find out whether they win re-election this year. City elections officials estimate it will take between 30 and 60 days -- working 8-hours-a-day, 7-days a-week -- to tally ballots under the city's new instant runoff voting system.

Minneapolis — Up until this year, Minneapolis residents have voted for mayor, city council, park board and other municipal offices the old fashioned way. You choose your favorite candidate and vote for him or her.

Whoever gets the most votes wins. But that's all going to change. With instant runoff voting, you can cast your ballot for a first-choice candidate, a second-choice and a third.

Counting those ballots is a complicated and time-consuming process; it involves a series of rounds, called runoffs. The city's vote-counting machines will be able to help a little bit, but most of the work has to be done by hand. ...Ostrow said, at this point, he would vote to delay instant runoff voting until there are machines to handle the counting.But he said he's in the minority on the city council.

Turns out the only thing instant about instant runoff is the situation where you have to decide your second and third choices before knowing how that choice will impact the outcome of the election. Counting IRV is certainly not instant. Unlike with regular elections, you can't just tally up totals. You have to consider each individual ballot and each choice on that ballot and re-allocate as that jurisdiction rules indicate. In Aspen, this meant stopping the count when a candidate in each of 3 contests had 1,273 votes each. But in Minneapolis, they do not have software to tally IRV, and they have different counting rules, so officials there will count until they drop, or somewhere from a few weeks to 2 months.