Monday, March 23, 2009

Instant Runoff Voting dealt setback by Minnesota Democrats DFL

The most influential political party in Minnesota has done major damage to the Instant Runoff Voting cause. The Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL) took a vote on a resolution to endorse Instant Runoff Voting on a sample ballot and the measure failed. This will have impact because 1. the DFL IS the Minnesota arm of the National Democratic Party; 2. the DFL has its roots in third-party protest movements; and 3. the DFL convention was held in St. Paul, where a ballot measure to enact IRV there has been tabled until a court case is settled. Some prominent democrats joined in opposition because instant runoff voting would make the ballots more complex.

DFL delegates deal blow to instant-runoff voting
By Paul Demko 3/23/09
The Minnesota Independent

The ongoing U.S. Senate contest may have produced an unlikely victim: instant-runoff voting

The controversial balloting system, in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, was on the agenda at Saturday’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convention in St. Paul. At issue was whether the DFL should lend its blessing to a campaign aimed at adopting instant-runoff voting (IRV). Most significantly, this would mean that the party’s sample ballot — mailed to thousands of potential voters in the days leading up to an election — would instruct DFLers to vote yes on the ballot question.

...The upshot: The DFL’s sample ballot will not instruct voters to support the adoption of IRV. While this may seem like a trifling development, in a city that votes overwhelmingly Democratic it could have a discernible effect on the outcome of the ballot referendum.

...St. Paul City Councilman Dave Thune (pictured) and veteran DFL activist Chuck Repke led the opposition to the measure at Saturday’s convention.

....Thune believes IRV would only compound such problems and disenfranchise voters. “While this may seem like a wonderful thing in Cambridge for a bunch of Harvard professors, we’ve got a general population that has trouble filling out one oval in a Coleman-Franken race,” he says.

What’s more, Thune argues that certain populations of voters, such as the disabled, immigrants whose first language isn’t English, the elderly –”all the people that supposedly as Democrats and liberals we’re bound to protect,” he notes–would be disproportionately affected by a more complex balloting system.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Instant Runoff Voting Case Fast Tracked to Minnesota Supreme Court

And the Minnesota Voters Alliance would be happy to take this to the US Supreme Court as well. Seems that next court could consider the many flaws and paradoxes that Instant Runoff exhibited in the recent Burlington Vermont Election would be proof in spades that IRV is not fair to voters, does not provide a majority supported win, harms certain vulnerable, and just isn't democratic.

Anti-IRV group scores an accelerated review

Judge rules for instant-runoff voting in Mpls. Supporters expect ruling on Mpls. IRV
The Minnesota Voters Alliance says the state Supreme Court granted its request for an accelerated review of its challenge to instant runoff voting or IRV.
The group is appealing the ruling of a Hennepin County District judge. Judge George McGunnigle found that there wasn't enough evidence to conclude that IRV deprives voters of any rights or privileges.
The Minnesota Voters Alliance asked for the accelerated review in order to bypass the Court of Appeals process and take their challenge directly to the Supreme Court.

See also:

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

September 14. 2008
Pierce County Instant Runoff Voting System has new bug, says WA SOS - may affect San Francisco

December 7, 2008
63% of Pierce County WA voters don't like Ranked Choice Voting that cost $4.14 per registered voter

December 7, 2008
2 out of 3 Pierce County RCV "winners" don't have a true majority

February 21, 2009
Georgetown University ditches Instant Runoff Voting - cites problems

February 21, 2009
Traditional runoff elections are more democratic even at UNC-CH!

March 14, 2009
Cary North Carolina turns down second bite of Instant Runoff Voting Pilot, process still too flawed

March 4, 2009
2nd IRV election in Burlington VT does not result in a majority winner!

Saturday, March 7, 2009
No Majority Winner in Instant Runoff Voting election in Burlington Vermont Mayoral Contest

Sunday, March 8, 2009
Instant Runoff Voting re-elects mayor who 71% voted against

Sunday, March 15, 2009
Burlington Instant Runoff Election riddled with pathologies

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Instant Runoff Voting at its worst in Burlington Vermont

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Instant Runoff Voting at its worst in Burlington Vermont

Even instant runoff voting advocates find it hard to ignore the flaws in the Burlington Vermont Mayoral Election. A critique of Instant Runoff Voting by Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski can be read in The Vermont Daily Briefing Bierzynski uses the Burlington mayoral election to showcase IRV's major flaws.

Philip Baruth over at The Vermont Daily Briefing says that even though he supports instant runoff, "questions linger about IRV itself...Tony’s arguments give me real pause." - PM

March 12th, 2009
Voting Paradoxes and Perverse Outcomes: Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski Lays Out A Case Against Instant Runoff Voting

Let’s get right into it: Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is not good. It is not good because it suffers from three fundamental problems: it discriminates against classes of voters by adding complexity the ballot; it has a very real potential to produce perverse outcomes or voting paradoxes that are not majoritarian; and it fails to address the real problem that arises when multiple parties compete in a two-party system.....

Its a technological fix for a political problem:

...In such cases what IRV does is it allows the factions to ignore the political problem by using a technological fix as opposed to resolving their differences through the necessary negotiations that characterize politics.

In other words, IRV allows such factions to avoid working together (as they should
because they want mostly the same thing). When such factions fail to work together, they ultimately fail to accomplish the reason such organizations exist, which is not just to continue existing: it is to win control of government in order to make people’s lives better in a manner consistent with their political values.

More reports and data about instant runoff voting in Vermont here at the Vermont Legislative Research Shop

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Burlington Instant Runoff Election riddled with pathologies

The instant runoff election in Burlington,Vermont suffered from nearly every pathology in the book: Non monotonicity - where with instant runoff, a voter can hurt their preferred candidate by ranking them first. A spoiler effect - in this election, Kurt Wright was the spoiler. The "no show" paradox - Wright supporters who also supported Montrol would have helped him if they hadn't shown up to vote at all. Majority failure -the candidate supported by the most voters did not win. Incumbent protection thanks to name recognition. Centrally counted votes - instant runoff opened up the election to fraud because votes were not counted where cast.

Instant runoff voting helped Burlington incumbent Bob Kiss win by getting the most 3rd choice votes. Opponent Kurt Wright had the most 1st and 2nd choice votes but lost the election.

Election method experts have issued a report that shows the bizarre pathologies in the Burlington instant runoff election. Here are some excerpts:

Burlington Vermont 2009 IRV mayor election
Thwarted-majority, non-monotonicity & other failures (oops)
By Anthony Gierzynski, Wes Hamilton, & Warren D. Smith,
March 2009. (skip to summary)

The pathologies

1. According to the pairwise table, Democrat Andy Montroll was favored over Republican Kurt Wright 56% to 44% (930-vote margin) and over Progressive Bob Kiss 54% to 46% (590-vote margin) majorities in both cases....

2. Despite that, IRV still seems to have performed better in this election than plain plurality voting, which (based on top-preference votes) would have elected Wright. That would have been even worse, since Wright actually was a "lose-to-all loser"....

3. Also, in this IRV election, Wright was a "spoiler"; if Wright had not been in the race then Montroll would have won (which the Wright voters would have preferred...

4. Another problem with IRV is the fact that it cannot be counted in precincts because there is no such thing as a "precinct subtotal." That's bad because it forces centralized (or at least centrally-directed) counting, thus making the election more vulnerable to fraud and communication outages....

5. ...this election also featured (what voting theorists call) a "no-show paradox." That is, if 753 Wright voters who favored Montroll over Kiss had simply stayed home and refused to vote, they would have gotten, in their view, a better election winner(Montroll) than they got by honestly voting....

6. Finally – and probably craziest of all – this election also featured nonmonotonicity.....In other words, Kiss won, but if 753 Wright-voters had switched their vote to Kiss, that would have made Kiss lose!

...pretty much every voting method mankind ever invented would elect MONTROLL
– making this a pretty easy election to call – except that IRV elects KISS and plurality elects WRIGHT.

...The truth

As shown in this election, IRV does not "solve the spoiler problem," does not"allow voters to vote their true preference without fear of inadvertently electing a candidate they cannot stand," and it does not elect candidates "actually preferred by a majority." These and other (e.g. non-monotonicity) pathologies are not rare. IRV in this election did not serve as a "bulwark of democracy" – rather the opposite. Our belief is that range voting, also known as "score voting," (and probably also approval voting) would not have exhibited any of these problems and in the present example would have elected Montroll. (Indeed range voting never exhibits non-monotonicity or spoilers, and it is rare that it refuses to elect beats-all winners.)

See the full report at the Center for Range Voting.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Instant Runoff Voting re-elects mayor who 71% voted against

Instant runoff voting: 71% of voters voted against Bob Kiss but Instant Runoff Voting re-elected the Burlington Vermont Mayor. According to Garrison Nelson, a University of Vermont political science professor, incumbent Bob Kiss won with an "artificial majority" cooked up by instant runoff voting. Nelson questions the point of instant runoff voting since many voters did not mark a second or third choice. One of Kiss's opponents, Republican Kurt Wright has requested a recount in response to some voters lack of confidence in the election results.

Runoff sealed Kiss victory
Third-choice IRV ballots helped make Kiss a winner
By Sam Hemingway, Free Press Staff Writer • March 8, 2009

The votes that sealed Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss’ victory Tuesday came from people who had marked Kiss as their third choice for mayor, according to a review by The Burlington Free Press of the city’s instant-runoff vote system data.

...• Kiss won 51.5 percent of the votes in the third round of instant-runoff tabulation, but overall he won only 44.7 percent of the 8,980 votes that were initially cast. Just 29 percent of the voters made him their first-choice selection.

“It’s an artificial majority cooked up by the mechanics of IRV, not by the voters,” said Garrison Nelson, a University of Vermont political science professor and longtime observer of city politics. “The fact is, 71 percent of the voters voted against Kiss.”

Nelson said the data showing that so many people chose not to mark second and third choices in the contest raise questions about whether instant-runoff voting is a better way to elect someone than having a traditional runoff election at a later date.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

No Majority Winner in Instant Runoff Voting election in Burlington Vermont Mayoral Contest

Chris Telesca analyzed the instant runoff voting data for the recent Burlington Mayoral contest. It turns out that even after all of the instant runoff voting gyrations of counting 3 rounds, that no candidate won a majority of the votes. Groups touting IRV often claim that Instant runoff voting produces a "true majority" winner. Not so says Chris:

March 4, 2009 2nd IRV election in Burlington VT does not result in a majority winner!
...Bob Kiss had 4313 - or 48.41% of the original 8909, not 51.5%.Kurt Wright had 4061 - or 45.58% of the original 8909, not 48.5%.That is because the total number of votes for these two candidates in this round is 8374 - or 535 less than the original 8909 cast in the first round. That is why an IRV win is not a true majority win in all but one or two cases because you never really get a true majority of the first round votes cast.

Chris has found majority failure in other Instant Runoff Voting elections:

2 out of 3 Pierce County RCV "winners" don't have a true majority
Peirce County WA claims to have winners in their RCV races - but were they real majority wins?

....In order to get a true majority, the winner would have needed 131,224 votes. The person who led the race in all 4 rounds "won" the RCV race in the 4th round with 98,366 - 32,858 short of a true majority....

Instant Runoff helps re-elect incumbent in Burlington Vermont Mayoral Contest

Instant Runoff for Burlington Vermont gave predictable results - the incumbent won the election. With Instant Runoff, the incumbent has the advantage of name recognition. The incumbent would have to do something really horrid, scandalous to lose an instant runoff election because his chances of being ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd are much higher than other less known candidates. I've been warned not to say anything about how Instant Runoff Voting serves as "incumbent protection" , as that would make politicians like it more.

Wright requests election recount Mayoral candidate calling attention to instant-runoff
By Joel Banner Baird, Free Press Staff Writer • March 7, 2009

Republican mayoral candidate Kurt Wright has requested a vote-by-vote recount of ballots cast Tuesday in the mayor’s race.

Wright lost narrowly to incumbent Progressive Bob Kiss in the third round of instant-runoff voting Tuesday. Wright was the leading vote-getter initially but failed to gain 50 percent plus one vote, triggering the IRV.

The recount will probably take place Tuesday and Wednesday in Contois Auditorium at City Hall, said the city’s chief administrative officer, Jonathan Leopold; he estimates the effort will take 12 to 15 hours to complete.

Recounting IRV ballots is labor intensive and highly frustrating. I cannot wait to see the results of the recount:

City councilors — minus candidates Wright and Democrat Andy Montroll — will count the votes by hand in teams of two, Leopold added.

Wait till they experience the joys of shuffling and resorting the ballots and reallocating the votes - manually, by hand. Election officials in Cary North Carolina had trouble just counting 3,000 instant runoff voting ballots by hand in October 2007, and ended up having to recount them. It took days to learn who the winner was and undermined the confidence in the process. See Instant Runoff was a disaster in Cary North Carolina

Wright asked for a recount because many voters were put off by the complexity of instant runoff voting. Some voters did not have confidence in the election process.

"After careful consideration, Burlington City Council President Kurt Wright has decided to request a recount by hand of the ballots cast in the closely contested Mayoral election held on March 3, 2009.

"This decision has not been made lightly. Instead, it has been made after an extraordinary number of loyal supporters, and indeed even supporters of other Mayoral candidates, have contacted Kurt and urged him to request a recount, primarily because of the questions which so many of them have about how the process operated in this close election.

"Neither has this decision been made with the expectation of overturning the ultimate result. Instead, it is hoped that a recount by hand can confirm the integrity of the process."

Some folks actually think that lawmakers allow instant runoff in order to "increase competition, make elections more civil, help third parties and blah blah blah..." The fact is that its just plain math. Incumbents love instant runoff - it protects their power.

Instant runoff voting equals incumbent protection. San Francisco has learned that after 4 years of use of the IRV system that IRV makes it harder for challengers to win:

Four supervisors, at least 31 foes to face off July 25, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO - Five seats, mayor’s coalition on the line; ranked-choicevoting gives incumbents lift
Ranked-choice voting gives incumbents a “tremendous advantage,” according to San Francisco-based political consultant Eric Jaye. A challenger can get more votes than the incumbent, but if the seated official gets more second- and third-rank votes, they can still win the race. “[Before ranked-choice voting,] all you had to do is push an incumbent into a runoff, then you’d have equality,” Jaye said. “Now, you don’t just have to make the incumbent the second choice, you have to make them the fourth choice.”

Instant runoff voting goes against a key principle of elections the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. Not so stupid advice. Protect elections, don't make them more complex.