Saturday, October 11, 2008

Instant runoff snag: San Francisco's voting machines STILL not approved

This is the most recent or current update on San Francisco's voting machine situation.

San Francisco entered into a $12 million contract with Sequoia voting systems, in order to replace other equiptment that failed to standards and to automate the counting of the Instant Runoff ballots. It looks like San Francisco still cannot use its brand new voting systems, purchased especially for their "IRV" capability. Problems with Sequoia machines Instant Runoff software have been found in testing performed in another IRV jurisdiction, in Pierce County Washington. (See Pierce County Instant Runoff Voting System has new bug, says WA ...)

San Francisco is still waiting to see if they can use their voting equipment. The city might not be able to offer "accessible" voting machines at all, unless the Secretary of State grants an exception to state certification standards.

RCV Update #3: November 4, 2008 Election
Honorable Gavin Newsom, Mayor
Honorable Members, Board of Supervisors

From: John Arntz, Director of Elections
Date: October 6, 2008

RE: Ranked-Choice Voting Update #3: November 4, 2008 Consolidated General Election
On Friday, September 26, the Secretary of State’s office held a hearing to consider whether to approve Sequoia Voting Systems’ optical scan equipment and software with ranked-choice voting (RCV) capabilities. Presented at the hearing was the staff report issued from the Secretary of State’s Office of Voting Systems Technology Assessment which recommended that the system be certified.

Although no ballots are tallied using the optical scan equipment and software until several more weeks, the certification has an important impact on our using the touch screen equipment for early voting. Due to certification requirements, the optical scan equipment and the touch screen equipment cannot be certified simultaneously for this election. Thus, if the Secretary certifies the optical scan system, the Department will request the use of the touch screen equipment be used as part of a “blended” system with the newly certified optical scan system.

The policy of the Secretary of State office is to not discuss the status of voting systems being considered for certification. Still, it is possible that the Secretary will make a final determination during the current week, perhaps even during the first half of this week. If the Secretary grants her approval of the system, the Department will formally request to use its touch screen equipment as a blended system for use in conjunction with the newly approved optical scan system. The time involved in the Secretary’s consideration of using the touch screen equipment as a component of a blended system most likely will of short duration.

The Department is presently unable to offer accessible voting equipment for use during early voting, which began this morning. For all voters visiting City Hall and voting, the Department will issue paper ballots. I will be glad to provide answers to any questions you might have on these matters.

cc: Dennis Herrera, City AttorneyBen Rosenfield, ControllerEdwin Lee, City AdministratorSteve Kawa, Chief of Staff, Mayor’s OfficeAngela Calvillo, Clerk of the Board of SupervisorsGreg Wagner, Budget Analyst, Mayor’s OfficeMollie Lee, Deputy City Attorney Elections Commission

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Instant Runoff Lawsuit Heads to Court in Minnesota

The Minnesota Voters Alliance's lawsuit heading to Hennepin County Minnesota District Court argues that Instant Runoff Voting is unconstitutional. IRV was adopted by referendum in Minneapolis Minnesota. The city of St. Paul, MN had received a petition to let their voters decide on whether to adopt IRV, but attorneys advised that IRV was probably unconstitional, and recommended not putting the referendum on the city ballot until the Hennepin County case was settled.

Instant runoff voting heads to court
by Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio October 8, 2008

...St. Paul, Minn. — The idea seems simple enough. Instead of making voters pick one candidate, instant runoff voting lets voters rank candidates by preference. In theory, it would avert controversies such as the 2000 presidential race, when Green Party contender Ralph Nader was called a spoiler. Instant runoff voting would have let his supporters still vote for him - even though his chances of winning were slim - and also choose between the top two contenders. San Franscisco and Cambridge, Massachusetts already use similar systems. But it's not as simple as it sounds. A plan to change the way Minneapolis votes, and maybe the way the whole state votes, is raising doubts. Opponents have raised legal, political and even mathematical questions about the method. And, they're heading for a constitutional showdown before Hennepin County District Court Judge George McGunnigle.

...Andy Cilek is with the Minnesota Voters Alliance and his group is suing Minneapolis to block IRV. He said ballots are for picking winners and losers and that IRV will interfere with the way that's supposed to happen. By ranking other candidates, Cilek argues, a voter may wind up hurting the candidate he or she favors most.

On the other hand, a voter simply might not find a second choice acceptable. Cilek said that if one voter doesn't rank the rest of the field, and a neighbor does, the neighbor effectively gets more votes, Cilek says.

The Voters Alliance said that violates the constitutional principal of "one person, one vote." And that's the basis of the legal challenge in Minneapolis.
...more at the link