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.