Monday, October 5, 2009

Is New York a prime guinea pig for Instant Runoff Voting now?

If New York does adopt optical scan voting machines. the state is a prime guinea pig for Instant Runoff Voting experiment. At least that is what Rob Richie, FairVote director hopes.

In the New York Times article, Senate Bill Would Eliminate Primary Runoff , Sewell Chan
quotes Rob Richie:

Now that New York is likely to move to new optical scan voting equipment, instant runoff voting is a sensible alternative. It’s been working well in elections in cities with diverse electorates like San Francisco and London and adopted for upcoming mayoral elections in Oakland, Minneapolis, Memphis and a growing number of other cities...

So its not enough that New York's elections will shift from lever voting machines to IRV's smoke and mirrors gaming of the election? to a more complex software run election process, Rob Richie would have you make the process even more complex and opaque!

What is Instant Runoff? Instant-runoff voting (IRV) is a voting system intended for single-winner elections in which voters can rank candidates in order of preference. IRV isn't instant to count - it can take days to figure out who won the election.

IRV is Toxic to election transparency: IRV is not "additive", so it increases reliance on more complex and bleeding edge technology and requires the central counting of votes. Central counting means hauling ballots away from the polling place to be counted elsewhere at a later time. This is toxic to the integrity of elections.

Voting voo-doo: IRV's complexity requires that voters rely upon experts to interpret the election results. VotingMattersBlog describes the instant runoff vote tallying process:

The counting of IRV is complex — the elimination of some candidates at the end
of the first round means that second choice votes are transferred to other candidates. If a third round is required the elimination and transfer process continues. 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. If one believes strongly that the average voter should be able to understand and observe the counting of votes in a democracy, then IRV fails to meet this standard.

Regardless of how you feel about Instant Runoff Voting, the process is opaque to the voter. The cost savings that IRV advocates tout are minimal at best and do not compensate for the erosion of election transparency.

While we do hold our election officials in high esteem, the confidence in our elections can have no other basis than the transparency and integrity of the process.
If the objective of an election process is to discern the will of the voters, then that process must be the simplest, most enfranchising method for all voters.