Thursday, June 17, 2010

To Portland - Lessons on Instant Runoff Voting in real life use

Attention Portland Charter Commission

Please accept these additional comments regarding regarding Portland's consideration of adopting instant runoff voting to elect your mayor. I understand that Portland, Maine had been seeking information about the "cons" of instant runoff voting and while this may come a little late, you may find this information helpful in avoiding surprises later.

Best regards, Joyce McCloy

Instant Runoff Voting Facts V Fiction
"We study the impact of instant runoff voting on voters rights, election administration and election outcome. Our goal is to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen. We welcome inquiries from the media, public officials, voter advocacy groups and concerned citizens." See email Joyce McCloy info (at) or phone at (336) 794-1240


IRV IS COSTLY: The continuing cost of Instant Runoff Voting in Minneapolis $244,000 IRV has added an additional $244,000 in costs each year, according to areport to City Council .See IRV cost estimates or actual cost information for Maine, Maryland, Minneapolis MN, Pierce County Washington, Vermont and San Francisco.It cost Pierce Co 2 million to implement an un-certified system for 375,589 votes – or $5.33 per registered voter! That is on top of the regular costs of their election system. (And Pierce rejected IRV last Nov 3 2009 by huge majority vote)

IRV DOES NOT INCREASE VOTER TURNOUT IN FACT, MINNEAPOLIS MN JUST HELD FIRST IRV ELECTION ON NOV 3, AND HAD LOWEST VOTER TURNOUT SINCE 1902 says the Minnesota Star Tribune."Turnout for Minneapolis elections last week was the lowest since 1902, before women got the vote,according to historical records." ~ Minneapolis Star Tribune, Nov 12, 2009

IRV DOES NOT EMPOWER COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AND MAY HARM THEM: If you move ahead with instant runoff voting/IRV, will you expend what is necessary in labor and funds in order to educate all segments of your community? Did you know that rather than help communities of color, IRV may harm them?

IRV USUALLY PRODUCES A PLURALITY WINNER.AND OFTEN SUFFERS FROM MAJORITY FAILURE: IRV has produced a plurality result in 2 out of 3 contests in Pierce Co WA. In other words, winners achieved victory with less than 50% of the votes. In San Francisco, CA., out of 20 RCV elections that have been held since the referendum establishing it passed, when IRV was used, it elected a plurality winner.


THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH VOTER EDUCATION:After 4 years of IRV and a fortune spent each year in San Francisco, a Grand Jury Report: said that poll workers and voters do not understand instant runoff. How many different languages will IRV voter education have to address?

IRV LEAVES SOME VOTERS BEHIND: Instant Runoff Voting not so good polls- Cary NC, Hendersonville NC, Pierce Co Washington and San Francisco 22.0% of Cary voters did not understand IRV at all

IRV IS DIFFICULT AND COMPLEX TO COUNT: IRV increases reliance on more complex technology, making audits and recounts more prohibitive, further eroding election transparency. Because IRV is not additive, no matter what voting system is used, the ballots, (electronic or optical scan) have to be hauled away from where they are cast to a central location to be counted. This increases the chance of fraud or lost votes. The tallying software utilizes a complex algorithm that makes the process even more opaque. Are you willing to be a large IT beta test for new voting software and or equipment? How will you effectively audit IRV? How would you recount ballots that have 3 choices per contest rather than just one? If you thought the Minnesota US Senate recount was lengthy, laborious and contentious, how much more so would an IRV recount be? Why endanger public confidence in elections? Once you obligate to IRV, your backs will be against the wall - ready or not, IRV will take priority over reliability, accuracy, affordability, and transparency.

IRV ESCAPE CLAUSE NEEDED: Please consider installing an "escape clause" allowing your city to be excused from administering IRV unable to accommodate the unexpected costs of instant runoff voting, also in the event that there is no federally certified software to tally the votes. Otherwise, in order to prevent lawsuits, (as occurred in San Francisco) Instant Runoff Voting may cannibalize funds needed for police, fire and other basic city services, and result in layoffs of city workers. What if the IRV voting system/software you purchase cannot work as proposed? This happened in Pierce Co Washington, causing increase in labor and costs. (New precinct scanners could not be used and ballots had to be hauled to a central location to be counted).

PORTLAND SHOULD REQUIRE PUBLIC HEARINGS IF CONSIDERING IRV: To be a truly democratic society, the public should have a say in how their votes are counted. Public hearings should be held by both the local elections boards and also local governments that are considering volunteering for IRV. These meetings should be publicly advertised with ample time for citizens to prepare to comment and attend meetings. This provides advocacy groups an opportunity to ask questions and testify as to their concerns.

Several jurisdictions have tried IRV and abandoned it. There's a reason why. Please see Instant Runoff Voting rejected by Sunnyvale, Burlington, Pierce Co, Cary. Aspen in Nov? and also Aspen Instant Runoff Voting--Up for Repeal in November 2010 .

There can be unintended consequences of IRV such as increased cost, labor, changes in procedures and policies, and in some cases a decreased confidence in the outcome of election results. For more about IRV based on news and reports, see and our blog

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