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.

Find the report at

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Sunnyvale CA scraps Instant Runoff Voting for selection of Mayor!

Sunnyvale's City Council says "no more" to instant runoff voting after using it for first time since adopting it. The council said that IRV was "too complicated for the public to understand".

Sunnyvale joins Cary, North Carolina, Georgetown University, Pierce County WA, Burlington Vt. and Aspen CO. tried instant runoff voting and said "no more". Update: (Aspen put IRV up for an advisory vote in November 2009. After provisional ballots were counted 801 to 808 - with 808 rejecting IRV For an effective repeal of IRV, it has to be voted on again in November 2010.) See full article on Sunnyvale're rejection of IRV below, emphasis mine.

Sunnyvale council changes the way it chooses the mayor
By Mayra Flores De Marcotte
05/20/2010 08:04:34 PM PDT

The Sunnyvale City Council will select its next mayor differently than in previous years. The council agreed April 27 to use a simple majority vote to determine which council member will fill the top position every two years. The change is intended to simplify what some considered a confusing process following January's selection that, for the first time in city history, saw a competition for the post.

"[We] should end up with a process that, more than anything else, people understand how it came out. If we go to a simple up and down [majority] vote, we very clearly have a way to explain," said Councilman Jim Griffith.

Until 2007, when the city changed its charter, the mayoral position rotated to the member with the most seniority. The seat is now open to any council member nominated by another member.

During January's selection process, Melinda Hamilton and Ron Swegles became the first council members to compete for the position, revealing some potential problems with the ranked-choice voting method.
Candidates must receive at least four votes—the majority of the seven-member council—to win. Hamilton secured four votes and was named mayor, but three members abstained from voting, which raised concerns about how to settle potential ties in the future.
Under the ranking system, council members rank their first- and second-choice candidates and vote for all candidates at the same time. If a council member's first candidate of choice does not receive enough votes and is eliminated, their second-choice vote is used.

Council members decided the ranked system was too complicated for the public to understand. Under simple majority, if three candidates are competing and there is a 3-2-2 vote, the council would break the 2-2 tie with a majority vote. The person with three votes would then run off against the second candidate who won the tie-breaker.
The change in voting procedures is a short-term solution while the council looks at whether the city should move forward with letting residents directly vote for the mayor. The implementation of a direct mayoral election would require a public vote to change the city charter. The council is set to discuss the possibility of instituting a direct election for the mayor's seat at the May 25 council meeting.

Councilmen Otto Lee and David Whittum both liked the ranked system, but only Whittum supported the motion to move forward with this method.

The council voted 5-2 to change the system back to the up and down vote.
"It's too complicated for the public's point of view," Lee said.
Along with the method of voting, the question of whether council members are required to vote was also on the table. Some members were concerned that if members abstained, it would be difficult to break a tie.

Council considered requiring all council members to vote when it came to choosing a mayor and vice mayor and not allowing them to abstain.
City attorney David Kahn explained to council that these are policies and not guidelines.

"Unless you have a legal reason to not vote, expectation is that council members should vote on every matter that's before them," Kahn said.
"Hamilton explained that the rationale was to avoid a situation in which someone refuses to vote and the council is left with a tie and no way to break it.
The council voted 5-2 against requiring members to vote.

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.

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