Sunday, June 13, 2010


Council President Anderson
Council Vice President Gardner
Councilor Boyle Councilor
Cuneo Councilor Fosle
Councilor Fedora
Councilor Gauthier
Councilor Hartman
Councilor Stauber

Dear Honorable Duluth City Council Council:

Regarding your consideration of the Instant Runoff Voting election method.

I am not from Duluth, but live in the state of North Carolina where lawmakers permitted two consecutive instant runoff voting pilots. I have studied instant runoff voting extensively and if you will permit, I'd like to comment on the potential impact of IRV on your community and your budget.

IRV is not widely used in the United States and several jurisdictions abandoned IRVafter trying it. Given that there are issues with IRV, please consider installing an "escape clause" into any city charter or pilot program in order to protect your city. and also require public hearings (with advance notice) to allow citizens to discuss whether they really want instant runoff voting or not. Consider who is from a paid advocacy group and who are actual citizens.

About North Carolina's voluntary IRV. Only two cities in the entire state of North Carolina participated in the IRV pilots in 2007, and only one city repeated participation in 2009. There have been no other IRV experiments in our state. In 2007, Cary NC actually tallied the IRV votes, and Don Frantz, the one IRV winner - became the most vocal opponent of instant runoff voting. The city reverted to its original election method, majority w/ runoff elections. Hendersonville has used IRV twice, mainly to eliminate runoffs, and has not counted or reported the IRV votes either time. The main push for IRV has come non profits, not citizens.


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 a report 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 if Duluth is 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).

DULUTH 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

You can view this letter online at this link


Joyce McCloy

Joyce McCloy, Director of NC Coalition for Verified Voting, also Director of About Instant Runoff Voting Facts Vs 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. For more information or to obtain interviews with election experts contact Joyce McCloy, Director of InstantRunoffVoting.US via phone 336.794.1240 or email info (at) Also see and

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