Website Search

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fake Instant Runoff Voting for Hendersonville NC in 2009? No One Asked the Voters Yet

The Instant Runoff Voting method that Hendersonville NC's city council is considering is FAKE. Did national IRV lobbyists think we are ignorant hillbillies who "just fell off the turnip truck"?
It makes no sense to use instant runoff voting for multi seat "pick two" contests, especially since IRV is intended for single winner contests. This fake IRV would have voters "pick two" in their first round and then rank 3 more candidates. Having a threshold of 25% is even more ridiculous, given that IRV is touted by proponents of providing a majority outcome.

IRV used this way will also change the character of the election. The current guidelines and procedures still violate key values of election transparency. Standards of the Public Confidence in Elections Act will be compromised. Hendersonville is not yet committed to the IRV pilot, as the Board of Elections has not yet voted. Concerned citizens can still contact the County Board of Elections and City Council. (see lower down)

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.

Hendersonville would be using FAKE IRV for two reasons: 1. Henderson's election is a "vote for two", while IRV is defined as a voting system used for single-winner elections in which voters can rank candidates in order of preference. 2. IRV proponents claim that IRV selects a candidate that has the support of the majority. A threshold of 25% is not majority support.

The main support for IRV has been ginned up by a national group called FairVote which has gone so far as to launch national alerts asking citizens around the country to lobby the Cary NC City Council members this month.

If by some odd occurrence the 25% threshold were not met in the Hendersonville 1st round, then the 2nd and or 3rd choice votes would be tallied by an uncertified "workaround" that requires a 5 page algorithm of steps on a spreadsheet. Meanwhile computer scientists and even business spreadsheet experts warn against using this workaround.

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, 2009Voting 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.

There is no federally certified software to tally the IRV votes, hence some erosion of the nationally recognized "The Public Confidence in Elections Law" NC SL 323 (2005). The erosion comes in the form of a "workaround" created by the NC SBoE using a spreadsheet that requires a 5 page single spaced algorithm to tabulate the votes.

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?"

Regardless of whether you like IRV or not, with the current guidelines and procedures, NC's Instant Runoff Voting pilot violates core principles of election integrity and harms voter confidence.

Trying to do Instant Runoff Voting in US elections is like trying to put a square tire on a car...

Take Action Now:

Contact your County Board of Elections Members ASAP, and also your City Council Members.Henderson County Board of Elections Members (Term Expires June 2009)Tom Wilson, Chairman Betty Gash, Secretary Joe Abrell, MemberBoE Members phone numbers and at least one email address listed here under District OneSend emails to and ask Director of Elections Beverly W. Cunningham to forward them to Board of Elections members.
The County BoE Phone (828) 697-4970 Fax (828) 697-4590

Hendersonville City Council
The Council meets on the first Thursday after the first Monday of each month at 5:45 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Regular meetings begin with public comment time.

Mayor Greg Newman
Mayor Pro-Tem Barbara Volk
Councilman Jeff Collis
Councilman Bill O'Cain
Councilman Steve Caraker
City Hall, 145 Fifth Avenue East, PO Box 1670, Hendersonville, NC 28793. 828/697-3000