Saturday, March 7, 2009

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.