Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Long Beach, CA to study instant runoff voting on Oct 6, significant opposition exists

The City of Long Beach California will hold a study session on Instant Runoff Voting on October 6. Yesterday the City Council narrowly agreed on the measure. There is significant opposition to changing Long Beach's city charter to require IRV. Advocates for IRV are lobbying the City Council members, saying that Instant runoff voting will save money and increase participation.

If you have a report, op/ed, news article or letter to the editor explaining the real pitfalls of IRV, you might send it to the Long Beach City Council. You might also recommend that the city do a fiscal analysis and study implementation in other towns/cities in the US. The email addresses are lower down the page. Here is the report on the meeting:
Instant Runoff Voting Headed For Oct. 6 Study Session...But Only After Council
Majority Opposition Nearly Stops It Outright

(Sept. 23, 2009) -- Significant Council opposition surfaced on a proposal to implement "instant runoff voting" in Long Beach (in which voters vote for their first and second choices, effectively deciding an election without a runoff). The proposal, agendized by Councilmembers S. Lowenthal, DeLong and Garcia and Lerch, is now scheduled for an Oct. 6 Study Session, originally directed in October 08 but never held. Scheduling the Oct. 6 study session scheduling came only after Council opposition indicated the measure may lack a majority to advance it to the Council's Charter Amendment Committee; the measure requires citywide voter approval to implement.

A number of podium speakers indicated they support instant runoff voting; they were advised to hold their substantive comments until the Oct. 6 study session.

Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell and Tonia Reyes Uranga indicated they don't support the proposal.

Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal first tried to send issue simultaneously to a Study Session and to the Charter Amendment Committee (to avoid having to hold a future Council vote on referring the item to the Charter Amendment committee)...but the Council ultimately voted only to schedule the item for a Study Session

The item appeared to be over...until Councilwoman Reyes Uranga moved to reconsider its referral to a study session; her reconsideration motion carried 5-4. Councilwoman Reyes Uranga then made a motion to receive and file the Instant Runoff Voting item...which would effectively end discussion on the item.

Councilmembers Lowenthal and Delong argued against this, citing asserted cost savings and greater public participation; Councilman Garcia said he favors receiving more information.

City Attorney Bob Shannon indicated that since the public was told to withhold its comments on the merits until an Oct. 6 study session, he recommended continuing the item to another date at which time the public could be heard on whether to receive and file it.

On questioning by Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, City Clerk Larry Herrera said the Council voted in Oct. 08 to approve a consent calendar item to hold a study session on Instant Runoff Voting...and acknowledged it was never scheduled.

Schipske asked whether it's coincidental that the item hadn't come up for over a year; Herrera said such election items typically arise in advance of election cycles and when the issue came up in his recent budget study session, he sensed Council consensus on holding a study session now.

Councilwoman Reyes Uranga said there was no consensus because there was no Council voted action. She asked rhetorically, "What was the whole facade...of going through [a new request for a study session on instant runoff voting] when it was already [set] for a study session [from an October 2008 Council voted action]?"..and then withdrew her motion to reconsider, effectively letting the Oct 2008 Council referral to a Study Session proceed.

"If we're going to have a study session regardless of what the Council [majority now] wants, then let's go ahead and hold it" she said.

The Council then voted to receive and file the evening's agendized item for a Study Session item...and let Council's Oct. 2008 referral to a Study Session proceed on Oct. 6, 2009; a Council majority will subsequently have to vote to refer the item to the Charter Amendment Committee if it is to advance. (Motion carried 7-2, Garcia and Lowenthal dissenting).

Earlier in the meeting, City Clerk Larry Herrera indicated that the final date on which the Council could place items on the April 2010 citywide election ballot is in mid-January 2010.
City Council Member names and email addresses: , , , , , , , , , ,

Long Beach (Sept 2009)
Vice Mayor/1st Dist. Bonnie Lowenthal
2d Dist. Suja Lowenthal
3d Dist Gary DeLong
4th Dist. Patrick O'Donnell
5th Dist. Gerrie Schipske
6th Dist. Dee Andrews
7th Dist. Tonia Reyes-Uranga
8th Dist. Rae Gabelich
9th Dist. Val Lerch
Mayor Bob Foster
City Auditor Laura Doud

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David Richie- "IRV worked let's move on" so Aspen voters just sit down and be quiet!

David Richie has an oped in the Aspen Times about Aspen's May 5 Instant Runoff Voting election. In IRV worked, let's move on Richie wants citizens to quit asking questions about the May 5 IRV election . He might as well have thrown a gauntlet.
Note to Richie: You don't tell Aspen folks to just sit down and be quiet when they have questions about their democracy.

Aspen's May 5 election left many voters doubting the election process because of a lack of transparency, not because of the results. The questions voters seem to be asking is not just whether IRV "worked", but whether the election process was transparent, secure, fair, and accurate. That problems caused by IRV (the complexity, the faulty tallying process and voter confusion) helped draw voters attention to the entire election process.

Another fact is that IRV is but one of several problems with Aspen's May 5 election, and the problems with Aspen's election exist elsewhere. It is just that Aspen voters were paying attention, perhaps because of the new IRV method:

Big changes needed to election system. Sept 22...Marilyn Marks.
...It is not just IRV. The most troublesome issues are not IRV-driven. Dumping IRV is not a panacea. We need fundamental improvements in simple procedures, from appropriate security for physical ballots to acceptable post-election audits, and accurate, timely reporting by the city.

IRV elections require voters to trust in officials instead of a transparent system.
At Voting Matters Blog: "The average voter has to place great trust in the reliability of the counting algorithm in a way far beyond what is necessary in plurality voting. So the counting is opaque and non-transparent — a kind of voting voodoo with election officials in the role of witch doctor producing the magical results."

Elections should be based on a system of checks and balances, and transparent so that the average layperson can observe the process. Instant Runoff Voting does not meet that standard.

Side note: Is David Richie related to Rob Richie of FairVote, the pro IRV organization?

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