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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Election officials tell Cary - Trust US - on Instant Runoff Voting process

The Cary News tried to report on the Cary Town Council's April 15th meeting discussing instant runoff voting procedures, past and present. It appears that the Cary News fell for the "trust us" talking points given at the Cary Town Council meeting. Since IRV is so complex, its hard to question officials about the process, especially when one official is a devoted advocate for IRV. The Wake BoE Chairman supported IRV so much he traveled to Minnesota to tell officials there how wonderfully it went here. Gilbert told a MN Legislative Committee that: "We say 'IRV is as easy as 1-2-3'; that's our not-too-original slogan," said John Gilbert, chairman of the Wake County Election Board in North Carolina, who told the committee that North Carolina's pilot program has worked successfully. "

The "Trust Us" election method is evoked when citizens insult officials by asking questions about the election process. The implication is that this is an insult to the integrity of the officials running the election, and if you trust them you won't ask questions. The mantra is that we have many checks and balances, blah blah blah so Cary Town Council should be reassured. But Wake BoE had "checks and balances" in 2007, and hello! How's that working for you? Do Cary Town Council members REALLY feel better after the April 15 Dog and Pony Show?

In Council weighs voting methods in the Cary News on April 21, 2009, Jordan Cooke says that Cary Town Council were reassured of the integrity of the Instant Runnoff Voting election process after their April 15th meeting. Cooke infers that Cary Town Council has more confidence in the process and that confidence may lead officials to choose Instant Runoff Voting instead of Plurality elections.

"Trust Us":
"Poucher went on to explain the process used to count, record and certify votes. She said that by her staff following the prescribed legal guidelines, 'the integrity of an election is guaranteed.'”

Sorry, no - once burned, twice shy:

it was Wake County in the first report ever in the US for loss of votes on paperless touchscreens. (E-Vote Machines Drop More Ballots Wired News)

it was Cherie Poucher who instructed consultant Glenn Newkirk to build a case against using optical scanners and ballot markers for Wake's early voting.

the Cary 2007 IRV election was not smooth, not for the candidates who watched vote totals change repeatedly as results were "corrected". Friday, the day after the "runoff" or count of the 2nd round, the election director performed an audit, according to the media. "Director Cherie Poucher said today that an audit of the votes found math mistakes: several votes for Frantz had been missed, and a group of 24 one-stop ballots had been counted twice for Maxwell. The new tally is 1,392 for Frantz and 1,339 for Maxwell, giving Frantz a 53-vote lead..."

Election officials from the Wake County Board of Elections and State Board of Elections were on hand April 15th to give "reassuring" answers that glossed over the real issues. You can watch the video of that meeting at the Cary Govt website here. I hear that more questions were answered off camera.

What Cary Town Council members wanted to know was:

-if North Carolina's voting machines could automatically count all instant runoff votes on election night,
-if NC's voting machines could report the IRV votes on election night, how long the process would take to get results from an IRV election

Election officials answers were full of platitudes and seemed to be as shallow as puddles of water. There was no more disclosure made than requested.

Officials from the NC SBoE inferred that our voting machines could easily count IRV votes with no complications. What they did not point out was that this process is not automated and still will not count 2nd and 3rd choice votes easily, nor rapidly, nor simply, nor on election night.

I got the feeling that some of the officials did not really understand the process, even after this superficial question and answer period. You know a voting method is too complicated if it takes an hour of question and answer, and at the end you can see that officials still aren't confident. I can't blame the Cary news for their reporting, because they observed a superficial presentation with that was intended to sell IRV, not to speak to the fact that Instant Runoff Voting is so complex to count that officials flubbed it in 2007, and so complex to count that it can't be tallied at the polling places, and so complex that it has taken several meetings of at least an hour each time for a city council to address this process.

"He who votes decides nothing; he who counts the votes decides everything."