Thursday, December 31, 2009


Another lampoon of Aspen's May 2009 Instant Runoff Voting election and questions about public's quest to view the ballots. By BetterBadNews "Political satire anchored by a surly moderator with 'issues'. Half true more or less 100% of the time."


Embattled Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland loses his temper as he takes the gloves off in his fight to defeat election quality advocates demanding election transparency in Aspenistan.

The BetterBadNews panel takes advantage of a cease fire among waring factions of rival warlords awaiting a court ruling on a voting rights dispute of national importance including:

1. Did Aspen's instant runoff election violate the city charter and open records law?

2. Was the Aspen city election commission illegally dismissed for questioning election irregularities in a recent municipal election?

3. Can the city of Aspen forbid the public from inspecting ballots?

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Las Vegas city council won't gamble on instant runoff voting

Another city says NO to instant runoff voting.

Las Vegas rejects proposed charter
Sunday, 20 Dec 2009

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) - Las Vegas city councilors have turned down a proposed new charter for the northern New Mexico community for the second time.

Two weeks ago, councilors rejected a charter because of a provision for instant runoffs, which would let voters rank their choices in municipal elections.

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Instant runoff voting: You must act now! Sale ends Sunday.

Blogger Bob Patterson writes about instant runoff voting's lack of transparency, and figures that voters are so used to election fraud that they just don't notice or don't care. Bob also zeros in on the heavy handed sales pitch used to promote IRV. Why isn't

Wanna play the shell game with your vote?
By Bob Patterson

Now that American voters have become anesthetized to the dangers of the electronic voting machines which do not leave a paper trail, it wasn’t very surprising to read Riya Bhattacharjee’s page one story in the December 10 – 16 issue of the weekly newspaper, The Berkeley Daily Planet, informing readers that Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) Machines had been OK’d for use in Alameda County because for a cynical, alarmist, conspiracy theory columnist this new topic set off internal sirens and alarm bells in a major way. Not only was Instant Runoffs (also known as ranked voting) a new concept, there were stealth indications about the possibility that “they” had found a new way to deprive Americans of their voting rights in a sneaky, underhanded, and obscure way. Instant runoffs seemed like a major candidate for becoming “the next big thing” in the blogisphere.

The Daily Planet story explained how the new system would give voters the chance to list candidates in a prioritized way so that the machines could anticipate any potential runoff elections and provide enough data for that expensive election result to be avoided.With IRV people rank their selection and the machine uses the results to compute the various mathematical permutations and potential match ups of candidates in case the voting doesn’t provide a clear statistical majority winner.
This new voting innovation can be ready for use in next year’s midterm elections but local voting officials must act quickly to implement this cost cutting new technology. (Gee, didn’t the “act quickly” philosophy work so well with the invasion of Iraq?)Expediency is often an integral part of a sales pitch. You must act now! Sale ends Sunday. Fear, such as the possibility that during the current economic slump (Great Depression 2.0?) precious city, county, and state funds could be spent on a runoff which could have been avoided if this magical new voting machine had been approved quickly, can also be used to motivate a fast approval....

Instant runoff voting - better than Sham-Wow? You decide.

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San Francisco-The Worst-Run Big City in the U.S. if only they had instant runoff voting

Oh wait they DO

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Experts rebut Gautam Dutta instant runoff voting piece in LA Daily Times

Instant runoff voting doesn't do all that Gautam Dutta claims, say some experts. On Dec 14, 2009 the Los Angeles Daily Times ran this op/ed:

Gautam Dutta: End L.A.'s losing streak with Instant Runoff Voting
By Gautam Dutta. Gautam Dutta is deputy director of New America Foundation's Political Reform Program. 12/14/2009 WHEN it comes to elections, Angelenos are mired in a vicious losing streak.

Take last week's City Council runoff election between Paul Krekorian and Christine Essel. While Krekorian won the two-person runoff, thousands of people actually lost: Essel, Los Angeles voters, and Los Angeles taxpayers.

Comments by elections methods experts disagree with claims made in Mr. Dutta's OP:

Jim RIley Dallas, TX Reply » Report Abuse #9 Wednesday Dec 16
Turnout in the runoff was 23% higher than in September, and 92% higher than the last time the election was contested at a general election in 2007.

Mr. Krekorian would had to receive an improbable 93% of transfers from the other 8 candidates to have garnered the support that he did in the runoff.

More likely the split would have been about 1/3 for Essel, 1/3 for Krekorian, and 1/3 exhausted, as confused or indifferent voters expressed only one preference, or were unable or unwilling to guess which candidates might be contenders.

Krekorian would have received the support of about 2/3 as many voters as he actually did, and quite possibly not a majority of ballots actually cast in September.

If Los Angeles wished to save money, it would switch to 2-year terms for all city offices to eliminate the consequences of officials such as Wendy Greuel jumping offices mid-term. Alternatively, they could require candidates who want to run for another office to resign prior to the general election, so that a special election can be held concurrent with the general election.

Jim Riley Dallas, TX Reply » Report Abuse #10 Wednesday Dec 16
The last conventional runoff for mayor in San Francisco (2003) saw an increase in turnout of 22%, with turnout over 54% of registered voters. In 2007, the only IRV mayoral election in SF, turnout was off an astounding 40% from 2003, and less than 36% of voters bothered to vote.

IRV advocates cite the 2005 election in San Francisco as proof of the increased turnout under IRV, but neglect to note that it was concurrent with the statewide special election called to consider a number of initiatives supported by Governor Schwarzenegger. There were similar turnouts from Mendocino to San Diego. Turnout in Los Angeles County was 47%, even though in the city of LA, there were only two special city council elections.

Last month in SF, votes cast for the same offices as 2009 (Treasurer and City Attorney) were down 58% and 56% from 2005.

If we compare votes cast for those offices in 2001, we see a 33% decline from 2001, when the last conventional election was held.

Warren_D_Smith Kings Park, NY Reply »
Report Abuse #12
A few falsehoods in the Dutta piece and in the comments:
Falsehood #1. Dutta "...and their rankings are then used to determine the majority winner." Reality #1: actually, IRV can fail to elect Majority Winners, and it is wrong to claim it always elects them. An example is Burlington VT mayor election of 2009, where IRV refused to elect the majority winner Montroll and forced Kiss down the throats of Burlington residents even though in their votes they said (by majority they preferred Montroll. Details:

Falsehood #2: Dutta: If Los Angeles adopts IRV for all of its elections, taxpayers will save nearly $10 million every two years. Reality #2: IRV can either raise or lower costs. For example, In San Francisco, the costs rose. Details in:

Falsehood #3: Dutta: Equally important, IRV will encourage candidates to run cleaner, issue-based campaigns.
Reality #3: IRV proponents have often said this, but so far I'd say with no evidence.(For example, Dutta presented no evidence for it, he merely asserted it.) What little evidence actually exists, is mixed and unconvincing.

Falsehood #4: Northrop:
"IRV has been used successfully for over 80 years in democracies such as Australia and Ireland without the spoiler effect that we have in the US." --actually;
(a) spoiler effect still occurs with IRV. Indeed, it (also) occurred in the Burlington election cited above (that web page explains).

(b) IRV although used in Ireland for 80 years has so far only yielded a different winner than plain plurality voting in ONE SINGLE INSTANCE in all of Irish history. But in that one instance, IRV exhibited several pathologies. So Irish IRV has not exactly been a shining example encouraging the world to adopt IRV. Instead, the Irish experience argues pretty convincingly IRV has been a waste of time. Details:

One of the main problems with the spoiler effect is that it causes voting for third parties to be risky and a wasted vote. As a result the third parties die out and we get 2-party domination. That's bad because democracy with few choices is not a good democracy. All those problems can still happen with IRV. That is why Australia's house (the body it elects with IRV) is currently 2-party dominated, with ZERO third-party members holding seats this house. Also zero the previous house. Also zero the one before that.

Subelman: "There is an alternative IRV scheme that is workable: in an election with more than two candidates, you vote for as many as you want. The one with the most votes wins." Response: This is called "approval voting." It is far simpler and cheaper than IRV and can be done with "dumb" voting machines. I recommend it more than IRV, as do most political scientists. The book "Approval Voting" by Brams & Fishburn discusses its properties.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hilarious lampoon of Aspen's May instant runoff election - with video

Aspen Colorado's instant runoff election this May was controversial for many reasons, not just IRV. There were a lot of questionable practices employed. The portrayal of the ballot box just outside the mayor's office during early voting was not a joke. It really happened! The video was produced by a group called Better Bad News. This is a lampoon of the entire election.

produced by Better Bad News

Instant runoff elections Aspen style sparks a voter revolt on BetterBadNews. The panel hears testimony about how a clever politician in Aspen Colorado, gamed an instant runoff election by hiding the ballots to protect voter piracy.

Can ballots photographed for verification of voter intent be hidden from public view because somebody in city hall forgot to shuffle the ballots?

In Colorado early voting is taken very seriously. A ballot box set up near the mayors office gives voters something to do while waiting for their appointment with the boss.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Instant Runoff Voting Majority is not what you think

One of the claims in favor of instant runoff voting is that it provides a majority winner. That is true only if you redefine what "majority winner" means.

In San Francisco,"majority" is of the "continuing" ballots, not a majority of all ballots:

"If no candidate receives a majority of votes from the continuing ballots after a candidate has been eliminated and his or her votes have been transferred to the next-ranked candidate, the continuing candidate with the fewest votes from the continuing ballots shall be eliminated. All votes cast for that candidate shall be transferred to the next-ranked continuing candidate on each voter's ballot. This process of eliminating candidates and transferring their votes to the next-ranked continuing candidates shall be repeated until a candidate receives a majority of the votes from the continuing ballots." SEC. 13.102. - INSTANT RUNOFF ELECTIONS.(D) go to this link and type in the SEC. 13.102 in search box. Amended in March 2002.

In other words, the majority consists of the votes left after others are eliminated. The elimination of ballots and the exhaustion of ballots (the point a ballot does not have choices marked) is part of the reason that in many instant runoff voting elections often suffer majority failure.

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New: Instant Runoff Voting majority failure, plurality results in the US

Over at Instant Runoff Voting facts vs Fiction we have updated our page about IRV's pattern of plurality results and frequent majority failure in US locales.

Additions include the majority failure in Cary, North Carolina's 2007 instant runoff voting election, and an Nov 2009 update on San Francisco's election data, including San Francisco elections held by IRV (instant runoff) and ordinary top-2-runoff (T2R) by Warren D. Smith.

If your goal is to end plurality elections, or ensure a majority result, then instant runoff voting is the wrong election method to adopt. If you want to learn more about election methods, there is an excellent discussion group hosted by the Range Voting folks.

Learn more about instant runoff voting's majority failure and plurality results in actual elections in the United States - here.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Judges rule: St Paul IRV group made knowingly false claims - $5K fine

St Paul pro instant runoff voting group showed a pattern of deliberate lying. So the pro instant runoff voting group with a name St Paul Better Ballot Campaign might more accurately be called "St Paul Deliberately Deceptive Campaign". Three judges say - the deception was deliberate, the perpetrators unashamed!

Group that backed instant runoff voting in St. Paul is fined $5,000
Group is fined $5,000, but the ruling won't affect referendum approval of IRV.
CHRIS HAVENS, Star Tribune Last update: December 1, 2009
The judges ruled that the Better Ballot campaign deliberately made the false claims on about 40,000 pre-election mailings that urged people to vote for the ranked-choice voting system. Administrative law judges Kathleen Sheehy, Cheryl LeClair-Sommer and Barbara Neilson heard the case.
"These false claims of support or endorsement likely influenced some voters, but the impact on the election cannot be quantified on this record." So the vote will stand.
The violations were "multiple and deliberate," the panel said, noting that the Better Ballot group "remains completely unapologetic."

From the court order the IRV group "made knowingly false claims"
This is the final paragraph of the decision:

Accordingly, the panel has concluded that the Respondent made knowingly false claims that the Minnesota DFL and the League of Women Voters “endorsed” the St.
Paul ballot question and that it failed to obtain written permission from the national
political figures before using their names as supporters of the ballot question, in
violation of Minn. Stat. § 211B.02. The panel has concluded that these violations, which were reflected in approximately 40,000 pieces of campaign literature, were multiple and deliberate. They were made despite the clarity of the statutory prohibitions, and the Respondent remains completely unapologetic. The timing of these mailings made it difficult for opponents to respond before the election and created an unfair advantage. These false claims of support or endorsement likely influenced some voters, but the impact on the election cannot be quantified on this record. Under all the circumstances, the panel believes a fine in the amount of $5,000 is the appropriate penalty.

Crime pays and a bad precedent set.

So, St Paul Better Ballots lost on every point, but still the case was not turned over to the county attorney for prosecution. The decision sets a troubling precedent - the penalty for a rather blatant lie is 5 grand. This sum is a bargain compared to the cost of running an honest campaign! Who will do it next, now that the court has made fraud so affordable? "Technical Violation" is the new term for We can do anything as long as the ends justifies the means.

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