Thursday, December 11, 2008

No Majority for 2 out of 3 Instant Runoff winners in Pierce County Washington

Another Instant Runoff Voting myth busted - again. This time it is the myth that instant runoff or ranked choice voting result in majority winners.

Voting activist Chris Telesca has a fascinating analysis of the Pierce County Washington's first Ranked Choice Voting election. (Also known as RCV and or Instant Runoff.)

Chris found that 2 of the 3 winners in the Pierce Co election won without a majority of the votes. Chris has a breakdown of the votes at his blog:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

2 out of 3 Pierce County RCV "winners" don't have a true majority
Pierce County WA claims to have winners in their RCV races - but were they real majority wins?It doesn't appear so in more than one race....Out of a total of 312,771 ballots cast, there were 299,132 votes that were counted. No one got over 50% of the votes.

If you go over to his blog, Chris shows you how smoke and mirrors are used to create the facade of a majority, by pretending some votes weren't really there.

Ranked choice voting, instant runoff voting, whatever you want to call it, it is just smoke and mirrors.

Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. The source of the name is based on magicians' illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a confusing burst of smoke. The expression may have a connotation of virtuosity or cleverness in carrying out such a deception

Instant Runoff Voting - as a tool to get rid of recounts??? Bad idea for elections

Another bad idea for elections. Promoting the adoption of instant runoff voting as a way to get rid of election recounts. First of all, its wrong because it doesn't work that way, and second, its a bad idea.

I get very upset when I see a piece in a major news paper praising the idea of eliminating election recounts. And it really disturbs me to see an activist movement ignorantly promoting that bad idea (eliminating recounts) as a reason to adopt instant runoff voting. I am sure that the voting vendors would love the idea -especially Diebold, whose software turns out to have a flaw that "sometimes" subtracts or erases votes.

The latest talking point to try to promote Instant Runoff Voting, aka IRV, aka Ranked Choice Voting is that it would eliminate the need for recounts. As if that is a desirable thing! Recounts are necessary in a healthy democracy. Without recounts, or the possibility (threat) of recounts, there can be no transparency in elections.

Your View: Instant runoff cheaper than recount Mankato Free Press, MN - ...Second, would be to institute IRV voting — this is instant runoff voting or ranked voting. This totally eliminates the need for a recount. ...

How about some cheese with that baloney!

The claim that IRV "totally eliminates the need for a recount" is flat out false!
If an election is close enough, a recount can be called, unless the standards for recounts are thrown away! Recounts are necessary and desirable for healthy, transparent and open elections.

Close contests DO happen with IRV, just as with any other type of election.
A fine example would be the IRV experiment in Cary, North Carolina City Council election in October 2007. The election was really close:

Recount widens Frantz lead in Cary October 12, 2007 “A double-checking of votes today in Cary's razor-thin District B Town Council election showed that Don Frantz appears to be the unofficial winner after all…Because dozens of provisional ballots had yet to be verified, a Maxwell victory could not be ruled out.Across Cary, a total of 52 provisional votes have yet to be tallied -- not all of which are expected to involve District B, because there were three other council races that day.” Oct 12, 2007

The ballots ended up being recounted because of mistakes made in the tallying. (IRV is hard to count)

"Critics Take Runoff Concerns to Elections Board" NBC 17 Tuesday, Oct 30, 2007 - 07:29

...What IRV does is violate one of the basic principals of election integrity, which is simplicity," said Perry Woods, a political consultant in Cary.

He says a small glitch threw everything into turmoil.

Basically, someone counted the same group of votes twice; the error was caught, and corrected after an audit.

Woods says his problem is with how they conducted that audit.

"In this case, they ended up recounting all the ballots again and calling it an audit," said Woods. "I felt like if they were doing that, the public should have been involved, so no doubt is there."

What IRV DOES do is make manual recounts extremely expensive, slow, and error prone.

Why IS instant runoff so hard to count? Because IRV is not additive. There is no such thing as a "subtotal" in IRV. In IRV every single vote may have to be sent individually to the central agency... each individual ballot has to be considered when deciding which ones advance to the "next round". The ballots cannot be counted at the polling places so it opens the door to wholesale fraud and error due to the complexity and need for centralization of the required tabulation process.

I am not opposed to a voting method that is simple to count and fair and monotonic and solves the spoiler problem, etc. But IRV is not simple to count, and it is "non monotonic", meaning that you can hurt your preferred candidate by voting for him or her! Many alternative voting methods solve the spoiler issue completely (unlike IRV and STV that do not solve the spoiler problem) and also still let voters fully express their voting preferences - i.e. do not seem to have any first amendment issues, equal treatment issues, or fairness issues.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Majority of Pierce County voters disliked Instant Runoff Voting, 91,000 surveyed

Pierce County Washington held its first Ranked Choice Voting election, also called Instant runoff, this past November. 91,000 voters received a survey form with their mail in ballots. A majority of them rejected Instant Runoff. The auditor cites cost of IRV as equal to half of what it cost the county to put on the 2008 General Election. Another criticism is that it took around 2 1/2 weeks to get the results of the IRV election. It certainly isn't instant!

Results are in: 63 percent disliked Ranked Choice Voting
Auditor defends ranked choice

Published: December 6th, 2008 12:05 AM Updated: December 6th, 2008 01:45 AM

Pierce County spent a lot of money on a new voting method for a few county offices in November’s election, and most voters didn’t like it a bit.

Auditor Pat McCarthy said ranked-choice voting will cost county taxpayers about $1.7 million, which is half of the overall $3.4 million it cost to put on the 2008 general election.

Although Pierce County voters changed the county charter last year to allow the new voting method, it appears they’ve changed their collective mind. Two of three voters who responded to a survey were opposed to the concept.

“It was overwhelming,” McCarthy told members of the state Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee on Friday. “The majority did not like it.”
That was based on nearly 91,000 voters who filled out a questionnaire that accompanied mail-in ballots.

...more at the link