Monday, July 7, 2008

Instant runoff not understood by voters and poll workers says San Francisco Grand Jury report issued July 3

July 3, 2008. San Francisco.

After four years of instant runoff elections, some of San Francisco's poll workers and voters still do not understand IRV according to a recent Grand Jury report. Further, San Francisco's new IRV voting machines are not yet certified by the state so a back up plan is needed for the November election. The city also must provide more voter outreach. Disaster was averted in the Nov 2007 election since there was no need for an "instant runoff".

[Note: San Francisco is the largest jurisdiction in the US to have IRV, and they have had it for the longest, adopted in 2003, implemented in 2004. We know they spent $1.87 per voter and had 700 public outreach events the first year, for a city with around 418,000 reg voters. (Wake County has at least 460,000 +).]

The 2007-2008 San Francisco Civil Grand Jury review of five elections for the city/county of San Francisco

The report says that some voters and poll workers do not understand IRV, and that a back up plan is needed in case the new Sequoia system is not certified.

Excerpts of the Grand Jury Report

The 2007-2008 San Francisco Civil Grand Jury reviewed the materials provided by the Department of Elections for the November 2007 and February 2008 elections


Ranked-Choice Voting and Absentee (Vote By Mail) BallotsRCV ballots were used in the November 2007 election for the offices of Mayor, DistrictAttorney, and Sheriff. Some pollworkers and voters told the Jury that they did not understand how to vote for candidates where RCV ballots were used. In the November 2008 election, RCV ballots will be used for some local offices. Aditional 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.

Findings:11. Some pollworkers and voters do not understand the procedures for voting for candidates where Ranked-Choice ballots are used.Findings14. While the DOE does meet these legal requirements, additional outreach efforts areneeded on voter registration requirements and deadlines, the Ranked-Choice Voting process and the requirements for submitting a valid Absentee Ballot.V Recommendations3. The DOE should publicly establish a date certain by which Sequoia must receive the Secretary of State's certification regarding the counting of RCV ballots. This date should be no later than September 15, 2008.

Response required: Department of Elections; Elections Commission

4. TO prepare for the possibility that Sequoia fails to obtain the required certification, DOEmust develop a contingency plan for counting RCV ballots, which should be in final form by October 6, 2008.

Response required: Department of Elections; Elections Commission

8. The DOE's outreach program needs to improve voter instructions on the Ranked-ChoiceVoting process and the use of Absentee Ballots.

Response required: Department of Elections; Elections Commission

9. In addition to established communication approaches, the DOE should explore enhance
techniques to communicate information on the less understood aspects of voting such as
partisan primary elections, Ranked-Choice Voting and Absentee Ballots.

Final Report and Certification of Election Results and Canvass Procedures - The
Secretary of State's certification of the Edge II machines requires the DOE to manually count all voter Verified Paper Audit Trails and compare those results to the machines electronic records.