Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dean and Sanders Instant Runoff Voting FAIL

Dean and Sanders don't know the facts on instant runoff voting, says blogger BurlingtonPol. And Dean commits a major gaff:

Dean and Sanders Fail on IRV by Burlington Pol. Thursday, February 25, 2010.
Failure from the two top Burlington pols this week on the IRV question.

First from Dean speaking to reporters on Church Street along side a representative from the League of Women Voters. He said that the 'Hinda Miller' election did not use IRV, and that it had only been used once- in the most recent election. Before and after that embarrassing gaff, on which he was immediately corrected, he did a good job of spitting out the textbook arguments for IRV. But that flub kinda killed the whole press conference for him, it seemed to me. Kinda killed his credibility on this issue. I mean, did he not vote in the 2006 mayoral election? Maybe not.

Then yesterday I received a flyer in the mail with Bernard Sanders's picture on it...

... more at the link. (Be sure to read the comments, they are fascinating)

Keep voting simple, vote yes on #5 to eliminate instant runoff voting in Burlington Vermont.

Also see
City voters will decide repeal question Politicians, FairVote Maryland, vpirg - BACK OFF!
Burlington instant runoff voting:-If you didn't vote for Kiss or Wright, then you didn't vote??Say what? (with video) "Repeal IRV" Blog says that even the instant runoff voting experts admit some votes just don't count...

Burlington - Instant Runoff Voting Interviews (fascinating video)Voters who supported implementing IRV have changed their minds.

Will Burlington eliminate Instant Runoff Voting on March 2? Citizens speak out

Burlington Voters will vote on March 2, 2010 on whether to repeal Instant runoff voting or not. See videos of a Town Hall meeting, also interviews with citizens, as well as some blogs and also some studies of IRV in Burlington.

The message from local grassroots activists? VOTE YES ON #5 MARCH 2ND

Sunday, February 28, 2010 City voters will decide repeal question Politicians, FairVote Maryland, vpirg - BACK OFF!

Burlington instant runoff voting:-If you didn't vote for Kiss or Wright, then you didn't vote??Say what? (with video) "Repeal IRV" Blog says that even the instant runoff voting experts admit some votes just don't count...

Burlington - Instant Runoff Voting Interviews (fascinating video)
Voters who supported implementing IRV have changed their minds.

Avoid a Tampering of Ballots on March 2: Vote in your Ward! ...When you vote in the March 2nd City Election, I urge people who want to repeal IRV to vote at their ward polling station. Don't vote at City Hall or by Absentee! The ballots are stored at City Hall and can be opened and changed!...

Burlington - Person, One Vote Press Conference on "Outside" Money 2/25/2009 (video)
This group of republicans, democrats, independents, progressives want the big money groups to send back the out of state money and let the March 2nd decision on instant runoff voting repeal to be a local decision....

About Burlington VT's most recent mayoral election: "Voting Paradoxes and Perverse Outcomes: Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski Lays Out A Case Against Instant Runoff Voting"

Burlington Vermont 2009 IRV mayor election
Thwarted-majority, non-monotonicity & other failures (oops)
By Anthony Gierzynski, Wes Hamilton, & Warren D. Smith,
March 2009. (in-depth study of the election)

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Burlington instant runoff voting:-If you didn't vote for Kiss or Wright, then you didn't vote??Say what?

Repeal IRV Blog says that even the instant runoff voting experts admit some votes just don't count...

If you didn't vote for Kiss or Wright, then you didn't vote --- ??? Say what?

A funny video clip from the Contois Repeal IRV debate. League spokesperson has been saying that IRV is a REAL runoff, and Repeal IRV says it is not. Question from audience about a bullet vote, and why IRV is not a real runoff. Check out the answer.....

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Instant Runoff Voting Interviews at Burlington City Hall - fascinating

Burlington Voters have their say about instant runoff voting. Burlington voter s will decide on March 2 whether to ditch IRV or not. To ditch IRV, they must vote YES on #5 to Repeal IRV. The press conference video below is of regular Burlington voters telling how they feel about instant runoff voting and its impact on their vote and elections.

Instant Runoff Voting Interviews at the Burlington City Hall before and after the IRV Debate.

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Burlington blogger: instant runoff voting repeal at risk of fraud March 2

Protect your vote to repeal instant runoff voting in Burlington. Blogger JayV at BlazingIndescretions is convinced that some may even commit election fraud in order to keep IRV. JayV urges voters to cast ballots in person and avoid risk - avoid voting by absentee or at city hall.

Avoid a Tampering of Ballots on March 2: Vote in your Ward!
I am convinced that City Hall is so concerned about the Repeal IRV vote that they'll do anything to keep IRV in the city elections, even fraudulently!

When you vote in the March 2nd City Election, I urge people who want to repeal IRV to vote at their ward polling station. Don't vote at City Hall or by Absentee! The ballots are stored at City Hall and can be opened and changed!

(Remember, in March, 2008, it was ward 7 ballots boxes that Jonathan Leopold ordered Ben Pacy to break, three times, and all he got was a slapped wrist!)Cross posted at Repeal IRV.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

National Group FairVote $ Promoting Instant Runoff Voting - outside influence on local elections

The clamor for instant runoff voting comes from outside groups. Just look at the money that pro IRV groups spend on lobbying. Small jurisdictions are no match for the big money and slick sales pitches used to promote instant runoff voting. This week a Vermont news-paper reports on the outside money being spent to try to retain instant runoff voting in Burlington.

Burlington IRV draws outside money Wednesday, February 24, 2010 The group fighting to retain instant-runoff voting for mayor in Burlington, 50 Percent Matters, is funded largely by non-Burlington groups.

About 78 percent of the $14,819 the group has raised comes from sources from outside Burlington. That includes $5,000 from the nonprofit advocacy organization Vermont Public Interest Research Group and $6,500 from Fairvote, a Takoma, Md., group that supports election reform.

Learn more about outside groups' dollars spent on lobbying for instant runoff voting in Davis, CA., and Burlington VT, Minneapolis MN, Pierce Co WA, and Oakland CA. From data we've unearthed so far, FairVote has spent approx $65,000 at least on the promotion of IRV just in Pierce County Washington:

Here's some data from the 2005, 2006 and 2007 990 filings found at And a recent news article.

FairVote donated $22,000 to support a political campaign in Pierce Co WA:

Pierce charter amendment supporters, opponents squabble over campaign cash
Posted By David Wickert on October 15, 2009. State Public Disclosure Commission records show Citizens Against Rigging the System, which opposes the charter amendments, has accepted $22,000 from Fair Vote, a Maryland nonprofit. According to its web site, the group advocates for election law changes it believes will increase voter participation and give voters “more meaningful ballot choices.”

Fair Vote has contributed more than 80 percent of the money raised by Citizens Against Rigging the System.

Hays says the contributions undermine the principal that “local issues should be decided by local people.” He contends Fair Vote has not disclosed its contributors, so voters don’t know who’s ultimately behind the contributions. And he suggests the contributions are illegal because Fair Vote is a nonprofit and can’t support a political campaign.

According to FairVote's 2007 990 form, page 17 dollar support to Sarasota FL, Callam Co WA, Aspen, Co, and Pierce Co WA:

FairVote engaged in direct lobbying in several instances:

We supported with minimal expenses a ballot measure on instant runoff voting in Springfield (IL.) in the spring of 2007 and spent $18,400 in direct support of ballot measures for instant runoff voting in Sarasota (FL) and Clallam County (WA)in November 2007 and support through staff time, primarily that of our instant runoff voting program director and a full-time field organizer in Sarasota. We spent much more limited amount of staff time to support additional ballot measures on instant runoff voting in Aspen (CO) and Pierce COunty (WA) - the Aspen money primarily in the form of the executive director's advocacy of the city council in its deliberations to place the measure on the ballot.

FairVote spent $6,250 to fund lobbying activity for consultants in Vermont on instant runoff voting legislation. A limited amount of the time of FairVote's executive director was also devoted to this project.

According to FairVote's 2006 990 form, page 34:

FairVote engaged in direct lobbying in several instance:

We allocated a total of $43,419 to campaigns and organizations that supported passage of Charter Amendment Three for instant runoff voting in Pierce County, Washington. We had additional in-kind contributions of staff time and list purchases of more than $10,000 to that campaign.

We allocated $15,000 to a campaign to adopt ranked voting methods (instant runoff voting for some offices and choice voting for others) in Minneapolis.

We provided gifts of $5,500 to the campaign for choice voting in Davis, California and some staff time to this campaign.

We allocated just under $5,000 to a campaign for instant runoff voting in Oakland, California. Earlier in the year, a consultant was paid for work in California that included some efforts to lobby the Oakland city council to place instant runoff voting on the ballot.

We worked with consultants in Vermont on instant runoff voting, with half of the time involved with lobbying the legislature on legislation to establish instant runoff voting
for congressional offices.

And FairVote's 2005 990

FairVote engaged in a limited amount of direct lobbying - a total of less than $6,000 --in several circumstances detailed as follows:

More than half of the year's direct lobbying related to enacting instant runoff voting in Burlington, Vermont. First, instant runoff voting was on the ballot as a charter amendment in the city in March 2005. We donated $2,000 to the Voters' Choice Coalition that worked to pass the amendment and paid $300 to part-time consultant Terry Bouricius to assist the campaign. The legislature then needed to approve the city's charter change. We used $500 to pay two consultants (Terry Bouricius and Jesse Rosado) to lobby successfully for the bill's passage.

Instant runoff voting also was placed on the November 2005 ballot by the city council of Takoma Park, where our organization is based. Our executive director spent time making the case for instant runoff voting and for a proposal to count ballots with paper ballots to the city council and was joined by staff members David Moon and Ryan O'Donnell and program associate Adam Johnson in putting a limited amount of time into assisting the local campaign committee.. FairVote also donated $200 directly to the local campaign committee.

FairVote supported several congressional bills on its website, and put a limited time into lobbying on behalf of proposed constitutional amendments HJR 28 and H$ 36. ...California consultant Chris Jerdonek spent a limited time lobbying the Alameda County Council to allow the City of Berkely to implement instant runoff voting.

What happens when money is spent equally on providing pros and cons of this type of voting method?

In British Columbia, the government funded both the pro and anti STV groups, and - and the majority of voters said no to STV.

Single Transferrable Vote Defeated Fair and Square in BC - Pro and Con Groups Funded by Provincial Govt Equally June 9, 2009 ...The provincial government gave $500,000 to two groups, British Columbians for BC-STV (aka Fair Voting B.C.) and No STV, which ran the official “yes” and “no” campaigns for this year’s referendum.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Burlington ballot measure to repeal instant runoff voting draws letters to editor


Burlington Vermont voters speak out about ballot measure to repeal instant runoff voting. On March 2nd, voters will get to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

The Burlington Free Press has 5 pages of letters to the editor both in favor of and opposed to the March 2nd ballot measure to repeal instant runoff voting (IRV)

Letters to the Editor: Instant Runoff Voting Tuesday, February 23, 2010

IRV system open to manipulation

I am responding to the article on Feb. 2 titled "Group rallies IRV support." There has been much published about the two sides of this argument. Kurt Wright won on the first two ballots last year for the mayor's race. It wasn't until the third cycle that Mayor Kiss was re-elected. This shows that the IRV system can be manipulated, especially in a town as left as Burlington. I think whoever gets the most votes, wins, period.

I have one question to ask this group: Did you all vote for Bill Clinton in the 1990s? I'll bet most of you did. Both times he was elected with less than 50 percent of the nations' vote. Nuff said!


IRV confirms value in improving democracy

The League of Women Voters of Vermont is one of 11 state leagues that have studied instant runoff voting (IRV) and reached a position of support. Burlington's experience with IRV has confirmed its value as an improvement to our democracy, and we strongly oppose the repeal of IRV.

A charter amendment petition is being proposed in the city of Burlington to repeal IRV and the majority requirement for electing a mayor in the first round of voting. Abandoning the principle of majority rule and substituting a plurality of 40 percent can attract spoilers who split the vote, and allow a candidate who 60 percent of the voters like least to be declared a winner.

The possibility of a separate runoff election costs voters time, money and participation, so if there is no candidate who achieves 40 percent of the vote in the first round, a separate runoff would be necessary. IRV is designed to preserve the majority rule, and the sanctity of one person, one vote without the burden of a second election.

It is unlikely that using IRV changed the results of the 2009 mayoral elections, a
concern of those who wish to repeal it. The ballots show that in a runoff between the top two finishers -- Wright and Kiss -- the majority of voters preferred Kiss. But the fairness of the voting system should never be judged based on whether a particular candidate is elected. The principle of majority rule is what really matters.

And without a majority victory threshold, we can't be assured of a democratic outcome.

The League of Women Voters urges a "no" vote on the town meeting ballot question to repeal IRV.

For more information on IRV, see the FAQs on our special Web site:

To help the league defend IRV and uphold majority rule in Burlington, please contact us at:
Marge Gaskins is president of the Champlain
Valley League of Women Voters.

Keep IRV, vote 'no' on Question 5

Thank you for highlighting Question No. 5 on the Burlington ballot (Comment & Debate, Feb. 9). The application of IRV in 2006 and in 2009 has sparked some very interesting discussion and debate on voting systems. IRV benefited one candidate. Condorcet would have benefited another. Plurality would have benefited another. As it turns out there is no perfect voting system.

Indeed, the proponents for the charter change make some strong arguments for repealing IRV. However, the alternative proposed by Question No. 5 would allow a mayor to be elected with just over 40 percent of the vote. In a city with three strong parties and a fiercely independent electorate, a 40 percent threshold would limit debate at best and spoil elections at worst.

To preserve majority rule, vote "no" on No. 5.

Don't forget to read the fine print

Question No. 5 on the March ballot doesn't just try to kill instant runoff voting (IRV) in Burlington. It also dismantles the current law requiring that a mayoral candidate win with at least 50 percent of the vote. They think 40 percent is enough.

That's the fine print that No. 5 supporters try not to discuss. They just want to attack IRV. Personally, I support IRV and am happy to discuss my views on it and how it upholds majority rule, gives voters more choices without a spoiler problem, and increases voter participation, among other benefits.

I also think that 50 percent matters. It keeps our leaders accountable to the majority, not just allowing them to sneak into office with 40 percent.

Many No. 5 supporters say we should discuss this 40 percent bit after the election. I find that disturbing. Let's not duck the issue or say it doesn't matter.

To find out why the League of Women Voters, VPIRG, and most Burlington elected officials urge a "no" vote, please visit
The writer is a
Democratic state representative from Burlington and co-chairman of 50% Matters.

Restore confidence to city government

On March 2, Burlington voters have an opportunity to decide the fate of instant runoff voting. Burlington voters must restore confidence in city government and the process we use to choose our elected officials.

Supporters of IRV believe in this methodology. But their arguments are as flawed as the IRV algorithm itself. After two elections what more proof do we need? I urge residents to vote "yes" on this ballot item. Burlington voters must decide on the merits of the process and not on how they believe the outcome of IRV will benefit their party or candidate.

No longer so sure about IRV system

I signed a petition to bring IRV back to the voters for re-evaluation. I had voted for IRV, and now I wasn't sure. Because so many people were upset about it, and there was a critical crisis of confidence in our city government, I thought IRV needed wide public discussion.

Expert analysts have determined that IRV can produce a false majority, voting paradoxes, and perverse outcomes. It seems that Burlington's 2009 mayoral election is a case study of that. We must restore confidence in our city government, and that begins with simple, straightforward elections.

Burlington had a traditional "one affirmative vote for the candidate of your choice" system with a 40 percent minimum threshold for many, many years. It is time tested, and it has the confidence of voters. We elected mayors of different parties, and never needed a run-off election.

I'm all for doing cool things, but IRV has hurt the office of mayor and our city badly, and we need to admit our mistakes and move forward together.

Keep voting simple. Vote yes on No. 5 to eliminate IRV.

Belief in IRV needs sense of humor

You need a good sense of humor to buy the argument that instant runoff voting (IRV) provides a majority winner -- as claimed by the pro-IRV forces. In fact, in 2009 Bob Kiss was in third place in the voters' preferences until the unique calculations were performed.

A system which provides strange results, and which most voters do not fully understand, is not a valid, democratic method for selecting a mayor. Its complexity explains why only 27 percent of registered voters came to the polls in 2009.

We need to return to the method used for many years in Burlington -- and which continues to be used across Vermont and in most communities in the country. It is simple and straight forward and truly reflects the voters' choice.

Vote "yes" on ballot item No. 5 to repeal IRV


IRV ensures true majority

On March 2, Burlingtonians will choose either to continue instant runoff voting (IRV) for mayor or to return to the (somewhat bizarre) 40 percent rule of old. The real question is whether winning means getting at least 50 percent of the votes, or whether winning means getting the most votes, even if it is less than 50 percent.

If you believe that when one candidate gets 15 percent and the other candidates each get less, the candidate with 15 percent should win even if the other 85 percent of voters want someone else, then vote against IRV.

If you believe the winner should have at least 50 percent, then vote for IRV. IRV is simple -- you rank the candidates 1-2-3-etc. The genius of IRV is that with that simple ranking, the ballot first asks who you want for mayor. If more than 50 percent of the voters choose one candidate, that candidate wins. Then the ballot asks: if no candidate gets 50 percent, and your candidate isn't one of the two vote-getters who go to the runoff, who will you vote for in the runoff? Then it asks: if neither of those candidates is in the runoff, who will you vote for? And it does all this with the simple one- two-three ranking.

IRV ensures at least a 50 percent vote for the winner. It is cheaper and more democratic than an actual runoff, since voter turnout tends to be lower for runoff elections. 50 percent matters -- vote No on Question 5 in Burlington.


IRV manipulates the vote count

Voters be prepared for the confusion of Question No. 5 regarding instant runoff voting on the March ballot. Initially, for me, the double question was an unanswerable quandary because yes, I agree with repealing IRV, and no, I do not support decreasing the percentage of votes "to at least 40 percent" to determine the winner.

Here it is: "Shall Sec. 5 of the City Charter be amended to eliminate IRV and to decrease the percentage of votes needed to elect mayor from more than 50 percent majority to at least 40 percent of the votes?"

The second part of the question is misleading.

It suggests that "40 percent of the votes" is something new; that we would be lowering our standards to vote in a mayor with only 40 percent of the vote. Not so, we have always had low standards -- 40 percent has always produced a winner! Who knew? So really, Question No. 5 is much simpler than it appears. It actually is -- do you think Burlington should return to its historical way of voting?

Apparently, getting IRV repealed is just the first step; changing the 40 percent to 50 percent can be adjusted at a later time, if voters so choose.

Without attending a panel discussion to hear both sides of the debate and to get clarification of the question, I would have skipped over it. It is that confusing.

Now, after hearing well presented positions on both sides, I will vote yes on 5 -- to repeal IRV. After all, do we really want to elect another mayor by manipulating the count? Mayor Kiss only received 29 percent of the votes.


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Instant runoff voting system not living up to promise - Burlington Vermont

After four years of using Instant runoff voting, Burlington voters have discovered that it doesn't live up to the talking points. The 2009 mayoral election was the last straw for voters: IRV did not provide a majority winner, it was not the same as a real runoff, and it did not provide a clearer choice to voters. As a result - 2000 voters have signed a petition to put an end to instant runoff voting in Burlington.

Instant runoff voting system not living up to promise
By Maurice Mahoney • Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Instant runoff voting was presented to Burlington by Terry Bouricius and other proponents in 2004 as an improved method of voting. We were told that instant runoff voting would provide a true preference of the majority of voters and would be an improvement over the existing system, which called for a runoff in the mayoral election if no candidate received at least 40 percent of the vote. Since there had never been a need for a runoff in the Burlington election this seemed like a solution for a nonproblem.

In the 2005 March election many people were absorbed with the Y/Moran plant issue and paid little attention to the IRV question on the ballot. The only time Burlington residents voted on IRV for the mayor's office was 2005 and they approved the item with little or no discussion.

Now we have had four years to experiment with instant runoff voting and evaluate it based on our experience. Question 5 asking Burlington voters to repeal IRV came about as a result of a citizen's petition supported by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

This broad based group of voters has come to the conclusion that IRV has not lived up to its promise.

First, it does not create a real majority. The IRV "majority" is a manufactured number after adding third place votes. When an incumbent mayor can be declared the majority winner after receiving 29 percent of first place votes, something seems goofy about the system.

Secondly, IRV does not have a real runoff. In a real runoff election, people know the two candidates and can make an informed decision. Under IRV you guess who might be in the runoff. It's Vegas voting and you might have a better chance at bingo.

IRV proponents say their system provides a clearer choice of the voters' preference. But in the 2009 election, Andy Montroll had more first and second place votes than either Kurt Wright or Bob Kiss and he came in third.

The election of 2009 left voters confused and angry, distrustful of a voting system that seemed to defy logic and the will of the majority. Even the IRV created "majority" was not a majority of the total votes cast for mayor.

The new system seemed to favor incumbents and throw out majority preference. How could you possibly declare 29 percent of first place votes a majority? Is it any wonder that people are saying they want a chance to give their opinion of this system now that we have tried it?

More than 2,000 Burlington voters have signed a citizens' initiative, the very essence of our democracy, to have their voice heard again. That initiative is Question 5: Repeal instant runoff voting and restore a true runoff system if Burlington ever needs it in a mayoral race.

The IRV proponents try to cloud the issue and distract voters with chatter about 50 percent matters. Interestingly, the councilors and Legislators telling you how important 50 percent is do not have a 50 percent provision in their own elections and have never complained.

So maybe it doesn't matter that much. What does matter is that the people of Burlington have a voting system which they understand and have faith in.

What does matter is that our voting system is understandable for everyone and doesn't have a built in bias or angle that favors anybody. Vote Yes on No. 5 and repeal IRV.

Maurice Mahoney of South Burlington is a former Democratic Burlington city councilor.

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Instant Runoff Voting Debate Question - Disenfranchisement? Vermont

Instant runoff voting debate in Vermont. Bianca Slota of XCAX challenges instant runoff voting support based on the studies showing voter disenfranchisement with IRV. Supporter denies.

This is a case of sticking to talking points even when evidence and several studies refute those pro instant runoff voting talking points.

There's a reason that instant runoff voting has been around for decades yet it is very rare in the US. Jurisdictions adopt IRV based on the talking points, then they ditch it when they find out that it doesn't work as advertised and makes voting more complex.

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Instant runoff voting debate in Burlington - utterly fascinating

Even advocates of instant runoff voting have trouble explaining how IRV works. Watch this video of the IRV debate in Burlington Vermont. You'll get an idea of what it would be like for candidates, pollworkers and GOTV (Get Out The Vote) activists to explain instant runoff voting to voters.

IRV Repeal Debate (Burlington Vermont) Instant Runoff Voting is clearly confusing when the spokesperson for Instant Runoff Voting from the League of Women Voter does not understand how votes are tallied.

Notice the struggle? Even with hand gestures they can't do it.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Open letter to the UK about electoral reform: remember Scotlands 2007 election debacle

Before adopting the electoral reform known as AV, the United Kingdom should learn from Scotland’s 2007 election debacle. Making big changes (like adopting AV) in elections processes can create chaos that disenfranchises voters and easily hides election rigging.

The UK is strongly considering two proposals that undermine each other:

Making ballots more complex makes counting them more laborious. This incentivizes computerized vote counting. That is what happened in Scotland in 2007. The Electoral Reform Society recommended the ballots be counted by computers, not by hand.

The results of the electoral reform adopted by Scotland in 2007? Chaos and massive voter disenfranchisement:

Not so much an election as a national humiliation
Scotland’s voters were treated with arrogance and contempt
. May 7, 2007 ...More than 100,000 people – around one in 20 of those who voted – had their ballot papers rejected in the election: a figure so scandalous that analogies with hanging chads don’t really begin to describe it....

And now they are stuck with it - for the time being:

System used in 2007 will return for 2012 council polls Award election contract with caution – MSP The voting and counting system now synonymous with the election night debacle of 2007 will return for the council elections in 2012, the Scottish Government has confirmed
The government’s determination to stick with STV guarantees the return of electronic counting, because a manual count would take up to three days.

The group that promoted a vote ranking method to Scotland and now a vote ranking method for the United Kingdom, was once caught in rigging its own election.

Electoral Reform Society admits its vote was rigged
By Paul Lashmar Monday, 17 July 2000…
The Electoral Reform Society, the august body that conducts independent ballots for many organisations including trade unions, has suffered the embarrassment of its own ballot rigging scandal.

“This has been a major blow to the credibility of the society. It hasin the past had a reputation for honesty which is crucial when runningballots. The fact that members of the society would stoop to ballotrigging is very worrying.”

Will the UK both mandate election night counting and ultimately Approval Voting, also called AV? If so, will the UK also abandon hand counted paper ballots as did Scotland? Lets hope that voters and officials in the United Kingdom carefully consider the risks and consequences of making drastic changes to the electoral system.

What more efficient way to rig an election or disenfranchise voters than to create massive chaos? Mass chaos helps cloak any deliberate election fraud and works twice as well.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Misleading Claim that Pres.Obama Supports Instant Runoff Voting

Is there any evidence that President Obama supports or endorse instant runoff voting (IRV)? The answer is NO, there is no evidence that PRESIDENT Obama supports IRV.

Ted Sowinskiof Oak Park Illinois
has a pro IRV piece in the Wednesday Journal with the usual incorrect claims that IRV provides a majority win etc. Sowinskiof also incorrectly claims that "IRV is supported by President Obama..." This is an assumption unsupported by facts, as a 3 panel judge in Minnesota found in December of 2009. While 8 years ago, a junior Illinois State Senator Barack Obama introduced a bill for IRV in Illinois, that bill went nowhere. Since then there has been no sign of Barack Obama having anything to do with instant runoff voting at all.

In fact, when the pro IRV group St Paul Better Ballots sent out campaign mailers claiming that President Obama endorsed instant runoff voting, they wound up in court. A 3 panel judge ruled that the group "knowingly made false claims":

Group that backed instant runoff voting in St. Paul is fined $5,000
Group is fined $5,000, but the ruling won't affect referendum approval of IRV. Star Tribune December 1, 2009
... The judges ruled that the Better Ballot campaign deliberately made the false claims on about 40,000 pre-election mailings that urged people to vote for the ranked-choice voting system. Administrative law judges Kathleen Sheehy, Cheryl LeClair-Sommer and Barbara Neilson heard the case.
"These false claims of support or endorsement likely influenced some voters, but the on the election cannot be quantified on this record." So the vote will stand.
The violations were "multiple and deliberate," the panel said, noting that the Better Ballot group "remains completely unapologetic."

From the court ruling:

"4. The Complainants have demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent violated Minn. Stat. § 211B.02 by falsely claiming that the IRV ballot question was endorsed by the Minnesota DFL and the League of Women Voters of Saint Paul and Minnesota.

5. The Complainants have demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent violated Minn. Stat. § 211B.02 by claiming that the IRV ballot question was endorsed by President Obama, Senator McCain, Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney without obtaining their written permission."

When St Paul Better Ballots Group was given a chance to provide proof of an endorsement for IRV from these officials, SPBB could not do it.

8 years ago, junior IL Senator Obama introduced an IRV bill, the bill went nowhere and that was the last about IRV heard from Sen Obama. There is no evidence that President Obama supports instant runoff voting today.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why San Francisco's instant runoff voting does not allow ranking of all candidates

The Million Dollar question still unasked is: WHY DOESN'T SAN FRANCISCO ALLOW VOTERS TO RANK ALL CANDIDATES THAT ARE ON THE BALLOT? The short answer is paper ballots.

There's been a slew of articles reporting on the lawsuit filed against San Francisco's IRV system.The lawsuit is opposing the limitation of rankings - you can only rank 3. The comments to the articles are hilarious in some cases, informative in others, and lined with mud-slinging in others.

But not one news article so far has asked the big question: WHY doesn't San Francisco allow voters to rank all candidates who are on the ballot?

Existing paper ballot systems cannot accommodate ranking all candidates now, nor in 2003. San Francisco voters refused to ditch their paper ballot optical scanners, so a compromise was made.

Here's the history:

The Los Angeles Voter Empowerment Circle recommended touch screen voting machines for IRV to the state of California in 2003: "touch screen machines for DRE systems are also better able to ccommodate alternative voting methods such as Instant Runoff Voting. We therefore believe that DRE systems are preferable to paper-based systems, such as punch cards or optical scans.

From the San Francisco Dept of Elections report on IRV in 2004. Beginning in April 2002, the City and ES&S began discussions on how to meet the new Charter mandate. The discussions involved not only how to implement an RCV voting system, but how to properly modify an existing contract that did not contemplate RCV. The uncertainty on how to best proceed in the development, certification, and implementation of an RCV system lengthened the amount of time required to modify and finalize the parties’ agreement. During the initial discussions, ES&S considered the best approach was for the City to move to touch-screen voting systems, ..although there was no funding or widespread support to move away from the City’s paper ballot voting system.

ES&S realized that its current paper ballot system could not provide voters the opportunity to rank all candidates that qualified for the ballot. For instance, if 22 candidates qualified for one contest, the system could not accommodate voters making 22 selections in order of their preference among the candidates. Touch-screen systems could most likely accommodate the ranking of all candidates.

For absentee voting, however, the formatting for the paper ballots for the current optical scan system limits the number of choices. The RCV Charter amendment allows for voters to have no less than three selections for an RCV contest if it is not technically feasible for the system to allow for voters to rank all of the candidates on the ballot. Thus, the City agreed to have its system modified to allow voters three rankings among the qualified candidates appearing on the RCV ballot.

Then, you could say - oh there are touchscreens with "paper trails" made, but the problem is that
many states are banning touchscreens because of reliability and accuracy failures. As a result, voting vendors are not producing them nor are they spending research and design money on them.

San Francisco could buy more IRV able voting machines again, after they are invented, tested, and federally certified. And as with all other instant runoff voting voting systems,
SF could work out the bugs in the new systems, in real live elections.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Instant Runoff Voting in Oakland- a stimulus package for political consultants?

The City of Oakland has just adopted IRV and now is considering doubling the campaign donation and spending limits since they will have "one election" rather than two. See recent article:

CityWise: Dellums says stimulus will bring 5,000 jobs
By Kelly Rayburn Oakland Tribune Posted: 02/04/2010
...The Oakland City Council won't decide whether to increase the amount of money that can be donated and spent in city elections until the city's Public Ethics Commission vets the idea, a council committee decided Thursday.

City Attorney John Russo proposed doubling both the amount individuals can donate to candidates and the amount that can be spent by candidates who agree to the city's voluntary spending caps. The logic behind the proposal was that with Oakland's recent switch to instant-runoff voting, which precludes the need for primary elections, it makes sense to allow candidates to raise and spend more money --particularly because candidates will want to educate voters on how the new voting system works.

Contribution and spending limits were adjusted this week by the City Clerk's office, and, with the new numbers in place, Russo's proposal would mean individuals would be allowed to donate as much as $1,400 to candidates, up from $700, and that a mayoral candidate who agrees to spending limits would be eligible to spend nearly $760,000.
So instant runoff voting would be great for political consultants - they could make twice the money in half the time, right?

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Instant runoff voting method challenged in San Francisco, the substance of the case

A suite against San Francisco's method of instant runoff voting was filed last week. See
Suit challenges San Francisco election practice

I just looked at a
copy of the lawsuit.

Its no surprise that Rob Richie (who is director of a non profit corporation that promotes instant runoff voting) says that S.F. Ranked-Choice Voting Lawsuit
is a 'Waste of Taxpayers' Money'
Be sure to read the comments - RR attacks other commenters for having an agenda. Never mind that Rob Richie is a paid promoter of instant runoff voting. RR's claim that political consultants lose money because of IRV is ludicrous - if anything, IRV will be a stimulus package for political consultants. Oakland CA's city attorney has proposed doubling the campaign donation limits because of IRV.

The key points of the case:

The issue of the constitutionality is based on HOW IRV is conducted in SF at this time.

Page 2: ...the instant runoff voting system being implemented in San Francisco is unorthodox and-at the time it was adopted-unprecedented in that it allows a voter to "rank" only three candidates even though there are often more than three candidates running for a particular office. San Francisco's novel system violates the constitutional rights of voters because it arbitrarily and illegally extinguishes a voters right to vote once his or her three ranked candidates are eliminated from contention. The result has been that in election after election thousands of voters have illegally had their votes "exhausted" and been denied the right to participate in subsequent rounds of balloting while other voters have been allowed to participate fully. As such the instant runoff voting system used in San Francisco violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, the First Amendment, and 42 U.S.C 1983.

There's much more to the suit, but that is why the plaintiffs are addressing the issue of constitutionality. The issue of exhausted ballots explains why instant runoff voting does not produce a true majority. In fact, San Francisco had to change the charter to redefine what a majority is:

In San Francisco,"majority" is of the "continuing" ballots, not a majority of all ballots:

"If no candidate receives a majority of votes from the continuing ballots after a candidate has been eliminated and his or her votes have been transferred to the next-ranked candidate, the continuing candidate with the fewest votes from the continuing ballots shall be eliminated. All votes cast for that candidate shall be transferred to the next-ranked continuing candidate on each voter's ballot. This process of eliminating candidates and transferring their votes to the next-ranked continuing candidates shall be repeated until a candidate receives a majority of the votes from the continuing ballots." SEC. 13.102. -INSTANT RUNOFF ELECTIONS(D)

In other words, the majority consists of the votes left after others are eliminated. The elimination of ballots and the exhaustion of ballots (the point a ballot does not have choices marked) is part of the reason that in many instant runoff voting elections often suffer majority failure.

The ironic thing is that many people who support IRV do so because they believe that IRV helps third party candidates and the third parties. But because of the math of IRV and the need for name recognition and or big money to get enough votes, IRV hurts third parties:

IRV leads to two party domination:

"The three IRV countries: Ireland (mandated in their 1937 constitution), Australia and Malta (and more recently Fiji for a brief period of IRV democracy before its coup) all are 2-party dominated (in IRV seats) – despite having many other features in their governments which would seem much more multiparty-genic than the USA with IRV added will ever have.
From the Center for Range Voting's report "Why does IRV lead to 2-party domination?

Another issue will be - if a judge instructs San Francisco to allow ranking all candidates, then this will be rather unwieldy using a paper ballot system as IRV uses up alot of "real estate" on the ballot.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Group sues to stop instant runoff elections in San Francisco, hearing 3-12

Instant runoff voting disenfranchises voters, and finally someone in San Francisco is doing something about it. As someone who cares about the voter franchise and about verified voting, the day I've waited for has finally arrived! Good to see someone in SF challenging the 21st century literacy test.

IRV is inherently unfair to voters and mathematically flawed. Further, the claim in the story that IRV votes are counted until someone receives a majority - is not true. San Francisco
changed its charter to redefine majority to mean majority of votes -after- others are eliminated.

Group sues to stop instant runoff elections in SF

Bay City News February 5, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — Six San Francisco residents sued the city in federal court Thursday to challenge its instant runoff voting system.

The lawsuit claims that the way the city implements the system is unconstitutional because some voters are denied the ability to have their vote counted in later rounds of balloting.

The instant runoff system, also known as ranked-choice voting, was approved by a voter initiative in 2002 and put into effect beginning in 2004 for the offices of mayor, Board of Supervisors, district attorney, city attorney, sheriff, public defender, treasurer and assessor-recorder.

The system is intended to avoid the cost and the risk of low voter turnout in having a separate runoff election at a later date when no candidate in a race wins a majority.

Under the system, voters can rank three choices in each race. If no candidate in a race wins a majority, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and his or her votes are transferred to the second choices of each citizen who voted for that candidate.

The process continues until one candidate achieves a majority.

Some races, such as supervisor contests, sometimes have a dozen or more candidates.

The lawsuit claims the system violates the constitutional right to vote because voters whose candidates are eliminated in early rounds have no voice in the final rounds of ballot counting in the instant runoff.

The suit seeks a preliminary injunction that would require the city either to return to having a separate runoff election or to allow voters to rank all candidates in a race.

A hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction is tentatively scheduled for March 12 before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco.

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said lawyers for the city had not yet seen the lawsuit, but said, "It's the city attorney's job to vigorouslydefend the laws voters enact, and that includes ranked-choice voting."
Since it is very hard to count IRV, and with paper ballot systems there isn't room to allow for ranking more than a few choices, there is no way to allow voters to rank all choices at this time.

Could this be why FairVote, the main IRV advocates, had at one time publicly partnered with the for profit internet voting corporation EveryoneCounts ? This is yet another reason to reject instant runoff voting, because the only way to count large complex ballots would be with hackable, insecure, and non secret internet voting. Something computer scientists warn against.


November 5, 2009 Instant Runoff Voting really bad says former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown The Hon. Willie Brown, Former Assembly member and Speaker of the California Assembly, and most popular Mayor of San Francisco gives his opinion on Instant Runoff Voting (YouTube video)

October 29, 2009 San Francisco Instant runoff voting 2009 Most Boring Election Ever - incumbents always re-elected ... all the promises made about IRV never came true. We're left with paying for an expensive system that hasn't lived up to its promises.

October 10, 2009 NO challengers in San Francisco 2009 Instant runoff election San Francisco is having an instant runoff voting election in November 2009, but hardly anyone is running. Both citywide offices have ONE candidate EACH. But San Francisco has to run the numbers and go through the expense of IRV anyway. Voters will see an IRV ballot for both uncontested races.

September 6, 2008 Letter from San Francisco: Politicos turning against Instant Runoff and Politics are nasty as ever

July 3, 08 San Francisco Grand Jury Report: poll workers and voters do not understand instant runoff, voting machines not yet certified.... Grand Jury Report, Our blog

Voter turnout has declined. In the 2007 mayoral/municipal election, turnout was only 35.61%, with 100,000 fewer voters than in the mayoral runoff in 2003 where 54% of the voters turned out to vote.

There was confusion over ranking. According to a Nov 8, 2007 Electionline report . "Voters also questioned the value of ranked-choice voting." "There are a lot of people who only mark one [candidate] or the same person three times," "I don't want to vote for a second one, I want this one."

Kathy Dopp "Realities Mar Instant Runoff - 18 Flaws and 3 Benefits

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