Monday, June 1, 2009

Aspen Instant Runoff a Lemon? IRV Leaves Bitter Aftertaste

Here's a letter to the editor about Aspen Colorado's recent instant runoff voting election. The writer wonders if instant runoff voting is truly good for the voters and if the tallying software has even more flaws than found so far. One flaw caused 28 votes to be miscounted in the final round. 28 votes doesn't sound like a lot unless you consider that sometimes an election is decided by even less than that number. Computerized vote counting is not as trustworthy as the average layperson assumes that it is.

IRV leaves bitter aftertaste

Dear Editor: As a proponent of instant run-off voting I continuously made the point that any software needed to be rigorously tested to ensure that it was error-free on Election Day. Despite good faith reassurances from the city staff, if now becomes clear that such was not accomplished. The software used by Aspen was obviously code generated for Cambridge (and thus satisfying a different set of rules), ostensibly modified to fully meet our requirements.

Post-election hand counting and reconciliation to the software generated results have revealed one error. There may be more buried in the code and unknown until a data set of votes forces a deviation from the voting rules. We simply have no reason to be entirely confident that using this software the next election will flawless, as it should be.

Overarching any “mechanical” problems of the software is the need to pragmatically evaluate this experiment and determine if it is better as a means of choosing our elected officials. Is it superior to a traditional run-off with the top two mayoral candidates squaring off? In the case of a large field of council candidates is the elimination system that was used better than others (like single elimination), or are we better suited to halving the field and having a run-off?

In sum, Aspen’s first taste of IRV may have resulted in the correct end result, but it has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. There is more to be done, and we should not wait until the next election looms over us, as was the case this year.

Neil B. Siegel

Is Great Britain Mulling the Instant Runoff Voting Scam?

Instant runoff voting for the UK? I was worried when I saw Rob Richie, Director of Fair Vote's recent article at Huffington Post titled "Britain may adopt instant runoff voting for next general election."

Turns out the title is misleading. It should read "Rob Richie really really wishes that hopefully maybe a small coalition can stir up enough interest to get a national referendum held on IRV/alternative vote."

It's all just more of Fair Vote's smoke and mirrors. There is not at this time a national referendum on IRV/alternative vote in the works for the UK. Right now there's a small coalition called Vote For Change pushing for a national referendum on Instant Runoff Voting or the Alternative Vote. This coalition consists of some musicians, artists, actors, journalists, a comedian, some activists and a retired politician. Nice folks but not who I would consult on election administration matters.

Britain may adopt instant runoff voting for next general election
Rob Richie, Executive Director of Fair Vote May 31, 2009
blah blah blah....same old same old....

In his article, Rob Richie has the usual talking points about how IRV will fix everything that is wrong with the UK's political system, just by ranking choices. He does everything but offer free ponies. At least he never claims it will grow hair on heads. RR rambles on so much that I'm just going to post the title and link. Oh, don't even think about trying to post a comment to RR's article, as usual, RR has "comments" turned off. For Pete's sake, its Huff Po! Turn the comments back on!

Will the UK buy the instant runoff voting aka alternative vote talking points? Lets hope the answer is no, and that UK citizens will ask tough questions and insist upon straight answers. Rob Richie's article title was overly optimistic.
If somehow interest can be ginned up to hold a national referendum on instant runoff aka the alternative vote - UK voters can strongly reject it as did British Columbia. Just this May 12, 2009 voters in British Columbia defeated a provincial referendum on the Single Transferable Vote proposal with 61% vote for FPTP. This was the second time in recent history that British Columbia rejected IRV/STV.
Like the talking points promoting Instant Runoff Voting or the Alternative Vote, this is just more smoke and mirrors.