Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do mail-in elections and instant runoff voting erode confidence in Aspen elections?

A writer from Pitkin Co Colorado says that though mail-in elections and instant runoff voting are touted as cost savers, they erode the creditability of elections. More is less.

For a return to traditional elections (LTE)


I have real concerns regarding mail-in elections.

I think many people feel the same way. You have to put your legal signature on the outside of the envelope. In this time of identity theft that seems ridiculous.

In the case of the hospital election we are being asked to vote to continue a mill levy on our property taxes as well as choosing hospital board members. We are to send out ballots to the hospital. I absolutely do not question Nell Strijbos-Arthur’s integrity but in general should election ballots be collected by the entity that will benefit from a positive outcome? The fire district election is for board members only, but that is certainly important as well and those ballots go to the fire district.

During the last general election I took my ballot to the Pitkin County clerk’s office and asked to put it in the ballot box. I was denied that right because my signature (on the outside of the envelope, arrgghh!) needed to be verified prior to the ballot going into the box. Since they didn’t want to do that while I waited, it was put in a pile of other ballots. I couldn’t believe it. I wrote a letter to the clerk with my concerns and received no response, although there was an article in the paper that sort of explained the “process.”

I realize that mail-in elections and IRV are attempts at curbing the cost of elections, but don’t you feel the credibility of elections is being eroded? Ballots are found in the trash in post offices. Can we really expect that signatures can be absolutely verified? We are giving away our civic responsibility to show up and vote to a process that purports to get more people to vote, but are they sure they are the legitimate voters? At least when you go the polls to vote, you sign a card, show your picture identification in front of a sworn election judge, and you are serious about voting because you made the effort. Of course, there have always been absentee ballots, but you had to apply for one, and bring it to the clerk, it felt more legit.

I am for a return to traditional elections with judges, voting machines, the chance to see neighbors and friends, and getting to wait a little bit for the results. It was much more exciting and fair and American.

Valerie Braun
Woody Creek

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

S.F Instant runoff voting survives court challenge, its ok if your vote doesn't count

Going to court to challenge the constitutionality of instant runoff voting is a waste of time. Judges don't understand complex election issues and they also dislike ruling against voting systems that have already been implemented. IRV is a placebo type voting method that makes people feel better about voting for a candidate who has no chance of winning. San Francisco has used IRV since 2004 years and yet has no elected third party officials. In 2008 a SF grand jury ruled that voters and poll workers still don't understand IRV. Voters will be stuck with this complex non transparent, Incumbent Return Voting system until there is a close election with a lengthy recount or else where there is a severe miscount.

S.F. instant-runoff voting upheld
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A federal judge has upheld San Francisco's instant-runoff voting system, which eliminates the two-stage primary and general elections and decides citywide races in a single ballot after voters rank their top three candidates.

A former candidate for supervisor and a group of voters argued that the system, enacted in a 2002 ballot measure, violates the rights of voters who choose only lower-ranked candidates and are disregarded in the final selection.

But U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said Friday that the three-candidate restriction, which was the focus of the legal challenge, doesn't take away anyone's vote and avoids the confusion that might ensue if voters were asked to rank every candidate on the ballot...
Some favorite readers comments to the article:

demobcracy4/20/2010 11:39:30 AM

kart_125cc: You lay out this scam very nicely. Going thru the motions of voting is equivalent to, but not the equal of, a counted vote. No liberal since Mussolini has said it better. Expediency is a poor excuse for bad governance.

tedlsf4/20/2010 9:37:10 AM

Leo, from Marin (where his voting are rights are still secure) got it wrong. The judge said that common sense is "ranking at least one candidate who is likely to survive untilthe final round." CORRECT! Does the Dept. of Elections tell voters to use common sense? NO! They simply say pick three to get the illusion that you've participated in the system. In Marin, they still have primaries, where voters can choose to vote, or not. They still have run-offs (general elections) to vote in the final round. Voters can participate or not. That's choice. SF voters are disenfranchised if they don't exercise common sense. The voter pool shrinks by design to leave the results up to a minority of voters. The only RCV elections that ring true are those where the winner wins in the first round, or there are only 3 or 4 candidates. Excluding up to 35% of the voters from making a decision about representation is not democracy, but a step toward tyranny.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

San Leandro City Councilmember says push for IRV came from special interests

On April 5, City Councilmember Diana Souza voted against adopting instant runoff voting aka IRV/RCV. Souza changed her vote from yes to no after learning that her January vote was based on input of special interest groups, not actual constituents. Souza's no IRV vote on Monday came after hearing from her constituents,who "felt ranked-choice was confusing and would discourage voters, and they doubted cost-savings estimates."

Mayor Santos rejected Monday's anti IRV vote and ordered a new vote to be held on April 19. When Mayor Santos cast his yes vote in January, he did so via teleconference and with the help of a national IRV lobbyist.
Santos had national IRV lobbyist, New America Foundation's director, Steven Hill, in his hotel room in the nation's capitol during the January vote. Another benefit of instant runoff voting for the mayor is IRV's well known incumbent protection properties.

Ranked-choice voting in San Leandro hits a snag
San Leandro to revisit the item on April 19
Michael Gregory, who had voted in January to approve ranked-choice, was absent.

Souza said she was unsure about ranked-choice voting when she voted for it in January.

She explained that she was swayed by the audience, which overwhelmingly spoke in support of switching to the new system. But afterward, she felt that the audience had been stacked with "special interests."

"It became apparent that the voice of the audience that evening was not the voice of residents that I've come into contact with in San Leandro. I think a politician's role is not to push a personal agenda but to listen to the voice of the people," she said, adding that her constituents felt ranked-choice was confusing and would discourage voters, and they doubted cost-savings estimates.

Santos used a section of the City Charter that empowers him to suspend the vote until the next meeting, when Gregory is scheduled to be present.
Instant runoff voting has gained reputation as incumbent protection, something that would benefit Mayor Santos:

RCV May Aid Incumbent Mayor in the Fall
Santos Gets Five Extra Months to Rake in the Dough 'R' Still Comes Before 'S' Captain Save-A-Country

Supporters of Ranked Choice Voting from the left-leaning New America Foundation had the ear of both Mayor Tony Santos and Councilman Jim Prola from the beginning. Both gave passionate speeches in favor and seemed relieved by its passing Tuesday night. Santos even had New America's director, Steven Hill, in his hotel room in the nation's capitol as Tuesday night's meeting headed towards two in the morning Eastern time....

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

San Leandro deadlocks on ranked choice voting ordinance

San Leandro CA City Council changed their mind about instant runoff voting after learning the drawbacks. Often when people who initially support IRV change their mind once they learn how IRV acts in real elections. The use of Instant runoff voting is fairly rare, yet has existed since the 1850s. Could it be because IRV is bad for voters, bad for candidates and bad for confidence in elections?
Council Deadlocks on Ranked Choice Voting Ordinance City Hall
The San Leandro City Council failed to pass a ranked choice voting (RCV, also known as instant runoff) ordinance when Councilmember Diana Souza switched her vote at the April 5, 2010, City Council meeting. If the vote stands, San Leandro may end up paying the additional costs of RCV while holding a traditional election and runoff in November 2010. The RCV ordinance is the last step needed to use RCV for the November election. At the January 19, 2010, City Council meeting, Souza had voted with the majority to approve the RCV cost sharing memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Alameda County and the cities of Oakland and Berkeley and to move the election to November. Souza joined Councilmember Bill Stephens and Joyce Starosciak in voting against the ordinance.
After the vote, Mayor Tony Santos declared that he would "set aside" the vote by exercising a provision of the city charter that permits the Mayor to essentially ignore the vote and to vote again on the same item at the next meeting.

The next regular meeting of the San Leandro City Council is April 19, 2010.

San Leandro still comes out ahead by saying NO to IRV even if the city gets stuck with some IRV costs.

The city, by saying no to IRV will not have to endure the lack of confidence in election outcome that has been experienced in other places that tried IRV (and ditched it later).

By saying no to IRV, San Leandro will not have to overhaul its elections administration system nor will the city have to create an intense voter education program to reach all vulnerable segments of the voting population.

Cary, NC, Pierce County Washington and Burlington Vermont ditched IRV after trying it. Aspen Colorado will be reconsidering the method after one IRV election that left many voters baffled on how the votes were counted. Worse, Aspen had to outsource its election to a specialized vendor who programmed the voting machines with the wrong IRV algorithm.

IRV is a very complex voting system and the only one I know of where you can't simply tally the votes up at the polling places on election night. IRV is not additive and you have to haul votes away from where they are cast in order to go through the complex sorting and reallocating process which includes eliminating some votes.

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Rob Richies latest instant runoff voting promo in "tribute" to Granny D

Rob Richie never misses an opportunity to plug instant runoff voting. Rob Richie has a "tribute" to Granny D (RIP) posted to his blog at Huffington Post. Maybe you remember another one of Rob's such "tributes" to another beloved national voting activist, last year. One that even RR admits drew criticism of exploitation. RR even edited that article to ad " I've heard that some readers thought I was capitalizing on this tragedy to suggest that John Gideon was an ally on instant runoff voting...I apologize to anyone offended by this piece".

Apparently Granny D liked instant runoff voting, at least she did 10 years ago, right after the pain of the disastrous 2000 presidential election. It sounded like a good idea then, if you didn't ask too many questions. Other reforms also seemed a good idea, and sadly one of those, paperless electronic voting was actually adopted. After 2000, e-voting sounded like a good idea- at the time.

Goodbye, Granny D: Doris Haddock's Long March.
Rob Richie, Huffington Post Blog
"I met Granny D in 2001 at a pro-democracy conference in Philadelphia, where our tables adjoined one another... As we talked about lessons from the 2000 election, she was fascinated by the idea of instant runoff voting, the ranked choice voting system that accommodates multi-party politics. A year later, she had woven 'IRV' into her speeches, including in a searingly acute analysis of the major parties as we hurtled toward the Iraq war...

Well, for once Rob Richie is allowing comments, but someone is moderating them, and there is a good chance my comment won't pass muster, so, I am blogging it here:

Whether you like IRV or not, it would not be feasible to conduct a presidential election in the US with it.

"...IRV is not additive. There is no such thing as a "subtotal" in IRV. In IRV every single vote may have to be sent individually to the central agency (1,000,000·N numbers, i.e. 1000 times more communication).... If the central agency then computes the winner, and then some location sends a correction, that may require redoing almost the whole
computation over again. There could easily be 100 such corrections and so you'd have to redo everything 100 times. Combine this scenario with a near-tie and legal and extra-legal battle like in Bush-Gore Florida 2000 over the validity of every vote, and this adds up to a complete nightmare for the election administrators." citation: Center for Range Voting.

IRV is like 3 card monte, the rules vary. Most US voting systems or ballots can't allow for more than 3 rankings to be counted. So if you want to rank 5 people, sorry.

IRV puts even more reliance upon complex software to sort, allocate, reallocate and eliminate choices and declare a winner.

I think that ALL votes should be counted and reported, and with IRV that doesn't happen.

Cary NC, Pierce Co Washington, and Burlington VT voters ditched IRV after trying it.

If Granny D were alive today, who knows, she might change her mind, others have.

Edited to ad: Rob Richie misleads further in the comments, so I have to correct that too:
Look at Rob's own words in his April 2009 "tribute" to another beloved national voting activist. RR even had to edit his own "tribute" article to apologize: " I've heard that some readers thought I was capitalizing on this tragedy to suggest that John Gideon was an ally on instant runoff voting...I apologize to anyone offended by this piece".

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rebecca Mercuri to Rob Richie Re: Census Count and Instant Runoff Voting

Email from Dr. Rebecca Mercuri to instant runoff voting advocate Rob Richie on how RR's favorite election reform, IRV would apply to Robs newer issue, the Census Count.

Re: FairVote Reformer on major coverage in New York Times, key advances for
voting reforms and more

I was recently reading the FairVote (an Instant Runoff Voting advocacy group) newsletter where the Census count is mentioned, and OF COURSE, one should note (though the author didn't) that it is STILL done on PAPER, not on the Internet. I sure hope that continues.

Anyway, it caused me to try to think of an IRV analogy to the Census -- perhaps filers would instead list the number of people they'd LIKE to have living in their homes on April 1, rather than the actual number of people that ARE living there. So people who are getting divorced would say 1 and people who are on the verge of giving birth would say 2 (or 9 if they are an octomom), and people who are about to die would say 0, and so on. It would be really interesting trying to figure out how to count that up accurately. And of course, since the computers would be doing advanced fuzzy math to determine the population for the subsequent gerrymandering, the software algorithms would be far too complex for anyone to ever check (also because they'd be written by some contractor who would decide that the code is a proprietary trade secret). After the results come out, we'd miraculously discover that Omaha Nebraska (gee, I wonder why it's THAT particular city) would be entitled to 25 members of Congress.

Hmmm....maybe that IS what's going on (or if not, I'm sure some folks with deep pockets of cash would love to make it happen).

Rebecca Mercuri.


While this email may sound like an April 1 joke, it actually is not, but perhaps instant runoff voting IS an April 1st joke gone wrong.

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