Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Instant Runoff: Messing Up North Carolina Elections and Efforts to Reduce the Damage

Instant Runoff: Messing Up North Carolina Elections and Efforts to Reduce the Damage

More Instant runoff mess to deal with again. Another Instant Runoff Pilot for North Carolina? Yes, it is true, another IRV pilot was buried within a large omnibus election law bill and ultimately passed. (It would never have passed in a bill by itself).

Some lawmakers tried to amend it to delay or kill the experiment to 2011, but intense lobbying by well funded sources prevailed. Lawmakers were desperate to get out of session and go home, and several had items in the big bill that they cared about.The good news is that lawmakers put several restrictions on the pilot and will require that this pilot adhere to existing election laws.

WUNC has the story of a last ditch effort to kill the IRV pilot:

Instant runoff nearly went down in flames

Election Law Amendments S1263 passed easily, but the Instant Runoff Voting pilot section darn near went down in flames after Jackson Dem Phil Haire launched a cranky diatribe against the recent IRV near-meltdown in Cary. The pilot funding survived, but not by much and only after pleas for support on both sides of the aisle. Watch this one next year.

Rep Haire's amendment would have delayed the implementation of the IRV Pilots until 2012 ,which would have had the effect of killing the IRV pilot because the pilot, as described by law, is only provided for through 2011.The amendment failed 47-65, which at least shows that not all of our lawmakers are lemmings heading towards a cliff (and dragging us with them).

The fact is that our voting machines are not set up to handle IRV:On December 17, 2007 the State Board advised lawmakers that:

"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."

And here's an email from the Voting Systems Project Manager for the State Board of Elections from June 17, 2008, stating that there just isn't any IRV software for North Carolina's voting machines.

From: Keith Long Cc: Don WrightSubject:

RE: 2nd request plse reply

FW: IRVsoftware 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, PMPNC Voting Systems

Lawmakers put restrictions on the IRV pilot this time, in order to (hopefully) ensure that the pilot is conducted within accordance of existing election laws, require that voter education is addressed (and funded!) and that jurisdictions cannot be forced by their Board of Elections into participating:

SECTION 3.(a)The State Board of Elections is authorized to select elections for offices of local government in which to use instant runoff voting in up to 10 local jurisdictions in each of the following years: 2009, 2010, and 2011. The selection of jurisdictions and administration of instant runoff voting shall follow the provisions of Section 1(a) of Session Law 2006‑192, except that the local governing board that is the subject of the election must approve participation in the pilot and also must agree to cooperate with the county board of elections and the Board in the development and implementation of a plan to educate candidates and voters about how to use the runoff voting method. In a multiseat contest, the Board shall modify the method used for instant runoff voting in single‑seat contests to apply its essential principles suitably to that election.

In the case of a board of education election where the "local governing board" must be asked to authorize instant runoff voting because nonpartisan plurality elections are normally used, the "local governing board" is the board of education itself. If instant runoff voting is used in place of the nonpartisan election and runoff method as described in G.S. 163‑293, the county board of elections, with the approval of the local governing board, may hold the election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The State Board of Elections, in consultation with the School of Government at the University of North Carolina, shall by January 1, 2009, develop for the pilot program authorized in this section goals, standards consistent with general election law, and criteria for implementation and evaluation. The pilot program shall be conducted according to those goals, standards, and criteria. SECTION 3.(b) This section is effective when it becomes law.