Friday, September 19, 2008

San Francisco Election Looms, Voting Machines Not Yet Approved for Instant Runoff

San Francisco's elections chief, John Arntz, expects the largest voter turnout in city history this November. Unfortunately, the city's voting machines may not be approved in time. If the machines aren't certified to count the IRV contests, then the seven supervisorial races will have to be counted by hand. That could take weeks, says this article:

Voting concerns loom with election nearing
By Beth Winegarner Examiner Staff Writer 9/17/08

Elections director John Arntz is always nervous when election season looms, but in November he’s anticipating the largest voter turnout in San Francisco history — and those voters may be using new voting machines that still have not been certified by the state. ...

...“If the touch-screen machines aren’t certified, paper ballots will be here and voting will continue,” Arntz said. “But someone who required disabled-accessible equipment wouldn’t be able to vote.”

...San Francisco signed a $12.6 million contract in December to purchase the new electronic voting machines from Oakland-based Sequoia. Last November, local ballots had to be hand counted after machines from The City’s previous vendor, Election Systems & Software, were not certified in time, which led to a $3.5 million lawsuit settlement between San Francisco and ES&S.

If Sequoia’s ranked-choice software is not approved, Bowen will allow San Francisco to use Sequoia machines to tally everything except the seven supervisorial races, according to Arntz.

Due to the complicated nature of ranked-choice tabulations, hand-counting ballots to determine the winners among 51 Board of Supervisors candidates in seven districts could take weeks. If that happens, Sequoia has agreed to pay for the hand count, Arntz said.

...more at the link

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Instant Runoff Voting: Not Saving Money & Politics Nasty As Usual In San Francisco

Four years later, we hear that IRV still hasn't saved San Francisco money, in fact it is costing money, and politics is as nasty as ever:

The City's Voting Machines STILL Uncertified? Yes We Can! Aug 28, 08 Greg Dewar

One of the bigger lies that was told during the campaign to force IRV/RCV/WTF down everyone's throats was that the system would "save money," because it would mean no runoff election.

Well, once again, that absurd little promise is proving once again to be false. Last year we had to hand count and re-do people's ballots for them, all by hand, because of problems with our voting systems. Now, the ugly little problem no one wants to talk about rears its head again, as it's been revealed NONE of the City's voting machines are certified for use. Yes, really.

...Last year we saw the specter of IRV/RCV/WTF advocates actually attacking Secretary of State Bowen for doing her job to maintain the integrity of the election system - because they wanted to defend their ideological vies, voter rights be damned. Look for a repeat performance this year.

IRV/RCV/WTF's many promises have mostly been proven false as the system has been implemented. Campaigns are NOT nicer, the top vote getter on Election night wins anyway, incumbents are ensured re-election (thus essentially giving all elected officials 8 year terms) and the crowded podium at debates and in news coverage ensures that the discussion of complex city policy is reduced to 15 and 30 second soundbites at endless "debates" that tell you nothing about what these people plan to do. That is, when we even bother to have people run against each other.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and racial minorities

Warren Smith at the Center for Range Voting analyzed the minority representation in Australia, a country that has used IRV for decades. Here is an excerpt, there is an entire webpage with charts and even pictures showing that Australia is electing caucasions only with IRV.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and racial minorities

It has sometimes been stated (falsely) by IRV-propagandists, that IRV helps minorities. But in fact, the available evidence indicates it hurts them.

[Skip to conclusion] [About the (unrelated?) fact IRV favors "extremists"]

To see this, we shall compare minority representation in federal IRV-elected and plurality-elected seats versus the minority percentages in the population at large, in the top IRV-using country (Australia) and the top two plurality-using countries (USA & UK) in years 2005-2008. We find, e.g, that there are zero racial-minority IRV seatholders...

...So given this, we suggest to you that based on the data that we have, and until any evidence comes along to the contrary, you should conclude that IRV disfavors racial minorities.

Please see the rest of this fascinating study here:

A little about Warren D. Smith:

Warren D. Smith Temple University Math Dept. Wachman Hall, Room 428, 1805 North Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19122.


Ph.D. (Applied Math) Princeton 1988
Ph.D. Thesis: ``Studies in computational geometry motivated by mesh generation,'' (485 pp.) Advisors: J.H. Conway & R.E. Tarjan, Princeton University.
Can order copy from University Microfilms International, via their online web server UMI "dissertation express", at cost $29.50 US (as of 1998) and with delivery in 4-5 days. UMI's order number for my PhD thesis is 9002713. (Also: UMI phone orders 800-521-0600 extension 3781.)
M.A. (Applied Math) Princeton 1986
B.Sc. (Physics) 1984 & B.Sc. (Math) 1984 (double major) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (4.7/5 GPA. Also got perfect scores on both the Physics and Math special subject "GRE" tests.)
B.Sc. Thesis: ``Learning and Rating Systems.'' Advisor: Richard P. Stanley.
Took 4 semesters of German; and 2 of Spanish at M.I.T.; 1 semester of private Japanese course at NEC. Can read papers in German & Spanish (especially with aid of a dictionary...).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pierce County Instant Runoff System has new bug, says Washington SOS - may affect San Francisco

This email from the Secretary of State of Washington outlines another bug in the new IRV voting system for Pierce County. It affects "rank choice voting" (IRV/Instant Runoff) only. Pierce County Washington adopted "instant runoff voting" in November 2006. In May 2008, officials were backed into a corner and ended up getting permission to use uncertified IRV software, violating their own state's laws.

Pierce county has Sequoia "Insight" optical scanners and DREs. The tabulating software, WinEDS 4.0.34 is still under test by iBeta. There is not even a test plan presented to the EAC for this system at this time. Washington State provisionally certified this software for use even after finding that there were problems with the use of the Insight machines when used in the RCV process. San Francisco is also using this system, and currently it is not certified in California to count IRV. San Francisco officials still don't know how they will count their "ranked choice" voting in November 2008.

Here's the email (Thanks to John Gideon of for sharing)

Dear Team,

It has come to our attention that there is a very rare occurrence of a problem with the Rank Choice Voting results loading with Pierce County’s provisionally certified software.
This occurrence is very rare, and did not present itself with the election definition we tested during the Emergency Certification testing at Pierce County. It does not affect the reporting of Election Night results including both Ranked and non-Ranked Choice contests. Should this condition occur with the General Election, it would only affect the Ranked Choice Voting reduction algorithm, and would be easily caught during normal results checking procedures at the time the Ranked Choice contests are processed.

However, if this condition occurs, the recovery process would be an extremely time consuming manual process. Given the nature of the problem, our preferred approach for ensuring the successful and efficient processing of Ranked Choice results is to apply a minor coding change to a single, isolated component of the election software. A detailed description of the problem is below.

Our office has instructed Sequoia to apply the fix to Pierce County’s provisionally certified software so that we can test it. We have also instructed iBeta, a nationally certified Voting System Test Laboratory(VSTL), to review the modification to the source code and verify that the minor change required, and only the change required, is applied to the provisionally certified code used for build 108 presently installed at Pierce County. We have also instructed iBeta to witness a new build of the software with the change applied. This new build will be installed at Pierce County after we test it here at our office.

We will be testing the modified software at our office on Wednesday,September 17th at 10 AM. We have posted a public notice of this testing.Since you were present during the initial testing, we wanted to alert you to this modification in case you wanted to be present at this test.The county will also be thoroughly pre-testing the General Election results, and we will be present during the Logic and Accuracy test,currently scheduled for October 13, 1:00 PM.

Bob – I’d like to respectfully request your presence at this test, if possible. Any other members of the public are welcome also. I’d like Bob to be present because of his experience with the Provisional Certification, his knowledge of technical issues, and his ability to explain technical processes in user friendly terms. Bob – please let me know if this is possible.

I will keep this group informed of the results of the test, and be happy to answer any questions you may have.


During additional testing of Sequoia Voting System v 4.0, including Rank Choice Voting, Sequoia Voting Systems’ testing engineers found a discrepancy in the Rank Choice Voting module results. After careful examination, it was determined that a field in the Preferential Data File was not initialized before loading data into this from Edge results cartridges. This file is used by the Rank Choice Voting module. Because this field was not initialized, errant data present in computer memory was introduced into the Preferential Data File. If the errant data included certain characters, i.e. carriage return, the carriage return would cause incomplete loading of Edge results into the Rank Choice Voting module. This incomplete load results in missing data from the Rank Choice Voting module.

This condition does not affect the loading of results into WinEDS for the purpose of Election Night summary reporting for any contest including the first rank choices for Ranked Choice Voting contests. Furthermore, this condition has no affect on individual Edge machine results reports.

The modification involves a coding change to initialize the field to clear out any errant characters so that they do not get introduced into the preferential data file before results are loaded into the RCV module.

iBeta will verify the following source code changes:

avcedge.rc: OCX file version is updated from to
preftally.cpp Initialization added to the write-in field.

Our office will observe the software behavior before the modification and identify the errant characters. If possible we will witness the effect of the carriage return character on the loading of results into the RCV module.

After the update is applied we will verify that the errant characters are no longer present, and that the RCV module is fully functional.

Once this update is installed at Pierce County, the county will verify that RCV results have fully loaded in both their pre-testing and official Logic and Accuracy test with the state.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you,

**Patty Murphy****
Voting Systems Support
Office of the Secretary of State
(360) 902-4188
Fax (360) 664-4619
PO Box 40229
520 Union Ave NE Olympia, WA 98504


related stories:

July 9, 2008 Instant runoff update for San Francisco: federal agency unlikely to certify any voting systems before November
June 27, 2008 Instant runoff forces Pierce County Washington to use uncertified voting systems

Monday, September 8, 2008

San Franciscans rejecting Instant Runoff Voting after 4 years of it

Letter from San Francisco: Politicos turning against Instant Runoff and Politics are nasty as ever

Yep, one of the "progressives" who pushed for IRV no longer believes in it. Here's a letter from a blogger who lives in San Francisco, the largest IRV jurisdiction in the country. Supervisor. Daly is one of the "progressives" who pushed for IRV. Blogger H. Brown says now Daly is against IRV because he wants to try and control votes. He even advocated "bullet voting" - something you CAN'T DO under IRV.

From: "h. brown"
Date: September 5, 2008 5:36:55 AM PDT
Subject: Tenants Union stabs Sanchez

Morning boys and girls,

Ed Jew won his seat in D-4 by telling all Chinese voters to ONLY vote for Chinese candidates. Ugly and racist it is true. But, it worked.

It worked because Jew realized that in a tight
race no candidate was likely to get 50% of the vote and second and third choices allowed under the City's IRV (Ranked Choice) system ...

the system could help elect a member of a 3-slate card while leaving lone wolves to die in the snow a few percentage points from the finish line (you hear me, Ron Dudum?). This
morning Fog City Journal reported that the Tenants Union will not take advantage of IRV.

Chris Daly and Ted Gullickson do not understand
this. Daly, in fact, has gone so far as to pressure the top ranked Progressive in the D-9 race (Mark Sanchez) to drop out of the race entirely so that Chris' choice (Eric Quezada) will (by Daly's reasoning) have the Progressive voter block to himself.

What Daly's tactics will do however is to insure that 'astro-turf' faux progressive David Campos will be elected. And, immediately vote for Bevan Dufty for Board President.

Daly has bragged that he controls the coveted
endorsements of both the Bay Guardian and the Tenants Union. And, that he doesn't believe in Ranked Choice voting. Ted Gullickson has joined him and the results could be disastrous for both the local Progressive movement and Daly's own shot at the Board presidency.

This is one of those 'I told you so' moments in
the making. Come January if Daly's tact fails and David Campos makes Daly the permanent Board rep to the SFUSD, I'll be saying it. "I told you so."