Sunday, June 7, 2009

Instant Runoff to hide campaign cash in Minneapolis Elections

The adoption of instant runoff voting has opened up a real can of worms for Minneapolis MN. Yet another complication with IRV - campaign disclosures not required for IRV elections. IRV has already complicated elections for Minneapolis: a citizens group has taken a case against the constitutionality of IRV to the Minnesota State Supreme Court, MN's voting machines can't tally IRV so it could take weeks or months to get election results for just muni elections , new (but not yet certified) machines may cost $6,500 each - and now here's another problem: no one thought about IRV's affect on campaign finance and disclosure!

Chris Telesca writes at his blog: June 6, 2009 Instant Runoff Virus hides campaign cash!

"Well I have to admit that I was wrong about Minneapolis doing proper due-diligence on IRV before they pushed it. Here's a story where even IRV supporters say that they made a mistake. So if there is any effect of big money in this election - we won't know about it until late October - just before voters head to the polls." ...

According to the Minnesota Star Tribune in Run-off voting delays finance disclosure:
"candidates won't have to file the usual pre-primary report around Labor Day showing who has contributed to their campaigns."

MN is not alone in muddling this. San Francisco also had a campaign finance problem when they first implemented IRV. Yet another aspect of how IRV bumps up against current systems. It turns out their campaign finance laws forbid a candidate to pay for advertisements that endorsed another candidate as 2nd choice on ballot.

From a NY Times article:
San Francisco's New Election System Runs Into an Obstacle By DEAN E. MURPHY
Published: October 17, 2004 "...several campaigns have been advised by the Ethics Commission staff that city and state laws appear to ban cooperation among candidates if it involves the expenditure of campaign funds." IRV supporters wanted instant runoff voting, instantly, and they got a can of worms.

For now, Instant Runoff Voting will make it harder for voters to know exactly who is influencing the candidates. Even if the laws in Minnesota are changed to provide for a more timely disclosure of campaign finance for Instant runoff elections, it may be too late for this election. Considering some candidates will endorse each other, the waters may be even further muddied.