Monday, May 24, 2010

The continuing cost of Instant Runoff Voting in Minneapolis $244,000

Minneapolis Council Members dismayed that Instant Runoff Voting did not work as touted. So far, instead of saving money and increasing turnout - IRV has added an additional $244,000 in costs each year, and in the city's first IRV election, turnout was the lowest in over 100 years. [ Low-key mayoral contest depressed Minneapolis turnout, officials say At 20 percent, turnout hit a low not seen since 1902. Results released Wednesday were good for incumbents. By STEVE BRANDT, Star Tribune November 11, 2009 ]
City council actions :: Korbel confirmed

The continuing cost of RCV: $244,000

Barring a change in available technologies, Minneapolis municipal elections could cost almost $250,000 extra every year that ranked-choice voting is in place.

Last year, the first time the city used RCV, there were about $365,000 in expenses specific to the new voting system, according to an Elections Department study received and filed by the City Council’s Committee of the Whole. That included one-time costs such as vast voter education and a post-election wrap-up survey commissioned to St. Cloud State University researchers.

But some of those voter education costs are projected to stick around — at least for the near future — since a refresher could be necessary when RCV returns in almost four years. Combined with other on-going costs, such as paying for ballots to be counted by hand, the projected ongoing costs of RCV total about $242,000.

Technology could be the savior here. There are machines that can count RCV ballots; however, none are certified yet by the state, and that certification isn’t expected unless more cities switch to RCV. And even then, while the city would save a projected $140,000 in RCV costs by being able to eliminate the hand count, the cost of technology is unknown.

At least one council member, President Barb Johnson (4th Ward), was miffed by the study. She noted that RCV’s supporters had promoted the system by saying it would draw out more voters and cost less than a traditional primary-plus-general election system. Considering the study’s results and last year’s very low voter turnout, she said, “all of these things did not happen in our city.”

“It is disturbing to me that we’re talking about an extra quarter of a million dollars for a system that was supposed to decrease our costs,” Johnson said.

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