Saturday, November 29, 2008

Instant runoff voting - counting by hand a nightmare?

Today in Voters Unite Daily news, John Gideon talks a little bit about IRV, aka Instant Runoff Voting. He says he has no opinion for or against IRV, but he does have a problem with the advocates who push for IRV even if it requires using voting machines and software that are proven to be defective (3 different bugs reported so far).. He also has a problem with a system that some election officials say is a nightmare to count by hand. (Emphasis below is mine.)

'Daily Voting News' For November 27 and 28, 2008

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of
I have been asked often about my position on Instant Runoff Voting [also known as Ranked Coice Voting]. My answer is always that I just haven’t formed an opinion on the basics of IRV. I do, however, have a problem with the fact that those who are avid supporters of IRV quite often favor IRV over voting system issues. They tend to be willing to turn a blind-eye to the use of voting systems that I would never support because there are no voting systems that actually support IRV that are federally certified. Two west-coast counties, Pierce in WA and San Francisco in CA, used Sequoia systems that were a mix and match of certified parts and tested parts that were never tested and certified to be used together. Officials in Minnesota are now talking about IRV for the future. When asked about a second or third count election officials said they would hand-count those ballots but officials who have done IRV say that would be a “huge nightmare”. One of the two west coast counties is even now thinking of going back to the voters to ask that IRV voting no longer be used. We agree with this position but only until there is a system that can actually count the ballots and not be a “huge nightmare”....

National: Hand-counting ballots in instant-runoff vote called 'huge nightmare’ http://www.startribune.c...aEP:kD:aUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU

The rest of John Gideon's daily news is over here at Brad Blog

IRV advocates argue that it is simple to hand count IRV ballots, that Ireland and Australia do it all of the time. Well these two countries often have no more than one or two items on the ballot, and it can take a long time to count.

Instant Runoff was a disaster in Cary North Carolina
Instant runoff voting was not so great in Cary North CarolinaEven "one of the best Boards of Elections in the state of North Carolina" had trouble counting IRV ballots in the Cary NC in Oct 2007 and provisional ballots weren't counted until after all rounds!:

It was difficult to count just 3,000 ballots correctly. Officials had to manually tally the IRV results for the Cary, NC “instant runoff”. There was confusion during the counting and ballots were miscounted and not properly allocated to the candidates. Friday, the day after the "runoff" or count of the 2nd round, the election director performed an audit, according to the media. Errors were discovered and the audit extended into a full blown recount...

....According to Chris Telesca who observed the IRV counting in Wake County, NC, to hand-process a little over 3000 paper ballots (after the first choice votes were counted on the op-scan machines) when there were only 3 candidates plus a few write-ins for the Cary district B, single member town council seat, and the counting went only two rounds

it took 6 sorting stacks for each of 12 ballot groupings or precincts (8 precincts plus absentee by mail in Cary, board of elections one-stop site, the Cary one-stop site, provisional ballots- Cary, and possibly some transfer votes from another county which were eligible to vote in the Cary IRV contest) or 12 times 6 stacks = 72 stacks.

Wake County officials decided to put each stack in a separate plastic bag to keep track. This would not be possible if there were more than one IRV contest because each contest requires independent sorting and stacking to count.

The procedure was very complicated, but it was there in print. Even so, the Wake Board of Elections (BOE) didn’t follow it. There was no overhead projector so that observers could follow the process. Non Board members were sorting the ballots into stacks which was hard to follow. Nonetheless, observers and the Board came up with different totals at the end of the day. The next day, the different totals were determined to be caused by a calculator error that was discovered in an “audit” – that also discovered a few missing votes...

Just 3,000 ballots!