Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Aspen's Instant Runoff Voting election to be audited by citizens group

Aspen's instant runoff voting election to be audited by independent group after several things went wrong in the town's first IRV election. Harvie Brancomb, a Colorado Verified Voting Activist and Computer Expert is leading the effort to conduct an independent audit of Aspen's recent instant runoff voting election. To conduct the audit, Branscomb's team will need to inspect the actual ballots. The audit is not intended as a tool to overturn the election results, but to see if the election process worked as it was supposed to. Ballots so private you can't audit them: The town's attorney has denied a public info request to obtain the 2,600 ballots, citing that the ballots are "private". It is ironic that ballots have to be stored for 22 months after federal elections or 6 months otherwise, but then destroyed and never available as public records for the public to review.

Aspen's May election under review
Independent group conducting audit of Instant Runoff Voting results
Carolyn Sackariason The Aspen Times Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN — A small group of Instant Runoff Voting junkies plan to do an independent review of Aspen's May election, and the two people leading the effort couldn't be more politically opposite.

City Hall critic and former mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks has joined forces with Harvie Branscomb, co-chair of the Eagle County Democratic Party, to launch the review.

“He called me out of the blue,” Marks said of Branscomb, who contacted her two weeks after the May 5 election. “While we are politically opposite, we have a shared passion to ensure the election's integrity and transparency.”

They both presented individual and lengthy presentations to the Aspen City Council on Tuesday, providing their analyses of what worked and what didn't with the first-ever IRV system tried in Aspen.

...Branscomb told the council he is raising private funds to pay for the review, which will include himself, an election lawyer and an election activist from the Front Range. The team will be designed to be a bipartisan effort.

“I have no agenda with respect to the election other than its unique benefits,” he said. “I want to document the process on setting up this particular election and its side effects.”

Marks said she plans to help raise money and support the effort with whatever election information and analysis she has done, but she is not officially part of Brancomb's team....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Correcting MPR "Ritchie watching IRV in Minneapolis, other states" - North Carolina info is WRONG

MPR has some facts wrong in a recent story on Instant Runoff Voting. NPR cites Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie as saying that 10 cities in North Carolina are experimenting with IRV. The citation is not a direct quote, but attributes statements or ideas to the honorable SOS Ritchie. Regardless, NPR's story is wrong.

Ritchie watching IRV in Minneapolis, other states July 22, 2009 ...Ritchie said he's been watching how IRV is being used in other states. He said North Carolina is experimenting with ranked choice voting in 10 cities of different sizes and different demographics.

There is only one town in North Carolina experimenting with IRV in 2009, the little town of Hendersonville. There were 2 cities participating in North Carolina's IRV pilot in 2007, Cary and Hendersonville. In April 2009, the Cary Town Council voted not to participate in further IRV pilots, but to keep its normal election method. This was after Cary had the full experience of IRV including counting the votes. See Cary NC tries IRV, then says 'no more'

I have to wonder why there was no mention of all of the jurisdictions considering ditching IRV, like Pierce County Washington, Aspen, Colorado or Burlington Vermont? These jurisdictions have discovered what instant runoff voting elections are really like. There's a reason that so few jurisdictions have adopted and implemented IRV, and it is because it is complex to count and also has perverse outcomes, shaking the confidence of the voters and the candidates.

*****UPDATE**** at 6:46 PM eastern, the reporter emailed me to advise the article has been corrected in the web article. We hope that for future stories on IRV, at least pertaining to North Carolina, that MPR or any other media will contact the NC Coalition for Verified Voting, the NC State Board of Elections, or perhaps candidates who have participated in the IRV elections for information.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aspen to reconsider Instant Runoff Voting this November - City Council cite problems with May election

Aspen, Colorado voters will decide whether to ditch or keep Instant Runoff Voting this November. Yesterday, Aspen Colorado City Council members agreed to put instant runoff voting on the ballot after discussing problems with the IRV election this past May. City Council members cited a lack of confidence in the voting method, the tallying, and desire to have more time to compare the field of candidates.

Aspen voters to vote on how they vote — again Wednesday, July 22, 2009 Carolyn Sackariason The Aspen Times Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN — Aspen voters will be asked this November if they liked the way they voted this past May for mayor and City Council members, which involved Instant Runoff Voting — or if there should be a different kind of election all together.

The Aspen City Council on Tuesday agreed to put an advisory question to voters on the fall ballot on whether the IRV election method — a system never tried before in Aspen until this past May — should be scrapped or kept in place.

...Some council members said they didn't have enough confidence in, or an
understanding of, the IRV process. As a result, it has opened the city up for liability and voter confusion.

.."This is a level of detail here that I am not connecting," Skadron said, adding that because different IRV tabulation methods can produce different outcomes, there is a level of subjectivity in analyzing the results. "I'm not confident in this system."

...Other council members said they think a runoff election with fewer candidates in June after the May vote gives voters a chance to learn more about their choices and the issues confronting the city.

...Election commissioner Elizabeth Milias said the election commission that
oversaw the IRV process, which included local attorney Chris Bryan, didn't certify the May 5 results because they didn't have confidence in the security and stewardship of the ballots, as well as the auditing and testing of the tabulation system.

...Their questions and criticisms have raised enough doubt among some council members that they want voters to decide whether IRV should continue as the official election method in Aspen.

"I think the voters should have a crack at voting on this again," said Mayor Mick Ireland

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Instant Runoff Voting Leads To 2 Party Rule Wherever Used

The claim that Instant Runoff Voting helps third parties is false. In fact, we know from studying the countries and jurisdictions that use it, IRV entrenches the two party duopoly and prevents weak third parties from gaining strength. The only time IRV does not harm third parties if if they are strong to begin with.

IRV leads to two party domination:

"The three IRV countries: Ireland (mandated in their 1937 constitution), Australia and Malta (and more recently Fiji for a brief period of IRV democracy before its coup) all are 2-party dominated (in IRV seats) – despite having many other features in their governments which would seem much more multiparty-genic than the USA with IRV added will ever have. So you can be sure the USA with IRV would be 2-party dominated too." - from the Center for Range Voting's report "Why does IRV lead to 2-party domination?

Why Two Party System is entrenched wherever IRV tried:

"IRV has entrenched the two-party political system wherever it has been tried. xiv One reason is because if a voter puts a third party candidate as his or her first choice, it can hurt the chances of the voter’s second choice major party candidate, who could potentially be eliminated in the first round, causing that voter’s last choice to be selected for office.xxvExamples include Australia (IRV seats are two-party dominated, zero third party members currently in the federal house; even though other NON-IRV seats NOT 2-party dominated, so this makes it quite clear) ditto Ireland and Fiji (but Fiji's democracy recently ended)."

From From Kathy Dopp's report "Realities Mar Instant Runoff Voting -18 Flaws and 4 Benefits"

More on IRV and Two Party Rule:
Australian Politics - the "Disadvantages of the Preferential [IRV] System"... promotes a two-party system to the detriment of minor parties and independents.
Libertarian Reform Caucus "Anyone for a Bullet in the Foot? Instant Runoff!"

There are other election methods that help third parties without the flaws that IRV suffers from.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Instant Runoff Voting Virus Aimed at Virginia

More Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) propaganda, this time aimed at the state of Virginia. Fair Vote is cranking out the usual talking points - that IRV is a miracle cure for whatever ails elections. You name it, they claim it. The problem is that its all been proven wrong.

Article is here

It's Time to Bring Majority Rule to the American Election Process Richmond Times Dispatch - Richmond,VA, USA. Instant Runoff Voting (or IRV) simulates the traditional two-round runoff by asking voters for their back-up choices, in case their preferred candidate ...

Whoa, stop right there! Virginia has enough problems running elections without adding the complications of IRV to the mix. Many counties in Virginia recently switched to paperless machines, some with wireless internet connections. Now, the state is transitioning again, but slowly - to optical scan by phasing out paperless. This will take years and counties are resisting by trying to stock up on spare touchscreen machines and parts. I posted a comment to the article. See below.

The Truth about IRV:
Instant Runoff Voting does not work as well as advertised, and has unintended consequences . Promises that IRV will save money, reduce negative campaigning, simplify elections, or provide a majority all in one election - are just not true. IRV is a vastly different way to cast, count and value ballots. Implementation is complicated and expensive and damaging to election transparency and the confidence in election results. Several places that have tried Instant Runoff Voting are ditching it or moving to ditch it. Pierce County Washington’s auditor says their county can save $600,000 next year if they ditch IRV.

Final warning to Virginians, protect your elections, protect your voters: