February 27, 2010

It's a funny business

I've only within the last year changed my mind about IRV. My distaste for the whole IRV process began when I was still the Ward 6 Election Clerk overseeing the 2009 IRV mayoral election for my ward. During a training, I was told there would be no print outs from the IRV optical scanner which meant I would have no record of the total votes from my ward before they were bagged, sealed and delivered to City Hall for tabulation. This was highly irregular so I made a big fuss about it. Shay Totton reported it in his column which I've pasted below.

I still to this day believe that it was not a mistake. I believe they were planning to run the election without paper print outs from the ward's IRV tabulators. One can only guess why that might be so if you know anything about election integrity. Of course, there is no proof but the whole incident was really, really strange.

Who’s Watching the Watchmen? —
Let’s face it: Burlington has had its share of problems since longtime elections chief Jo LaMarche left the city to take a job as the Addison County clerk. Many wonder if the current team is up to the task of running an error-free election.
After last year’s March election, city Democrats hauled Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold and his assistant Ben Pacy into court for improperly unsealing a box of ballots during the recount of a New North End council race.
Since then, Burlington has had a statewide primary where not enough ballots were ordered for one ward. Then, last November, city election officials incorrectly reported vote tallies on election night, which caused confusion in a key county senate race — so much confusion, in fact, that one candidate asked for a countywide recount. Even with wrong numbers, the public got results several hours later than in any previous election.
In the world of baseball, that might been the equivalent of three strikes. But one of those strikes could have passed for a foul tip.
Now we learn that election workers were given bad info about how voting machines should be set up for the city’s instant runoff system. During a training two weeks ago, Pacy told election workers that ballot machines would be calibrated and cleared at City Hall — a procedure elected election officials used to carry out at the polling site, before voting started, to protect against voter fraud.
Ward 6 election official Owen Mulligan raised concerns, claiming elected election officials — not city employees and consultants — should ensure ballot boxes are clear before the polls open. That’s how it was done in 2006.
Mulligan contacted Seven Days, and subsequently his note to us ended up on a friend’s blog, Blazing Indiscretions.
When Mulligan’s complaint hit the blog, IRV supporter and consultant Terry Bouricius called city hall and then replied on the blog claiming Pacy’s info was inaccurate. Yikes.
In 2006, he was a paid consultant for the city. This year, he’s doing some work pro bono, since few, if any, of the election workers in City Hall were around three years ago. Comforting thought.
“Owen was rightly upset,” Bouricius later told Seven Days. “But, what he would like to happen is actually what is going to happen.”In other words, ward election workers will do what they have always done.
Pacy told “Fair Game” that the city had the wrong info to begin with and will clear the air at the next training. That occurs as Seven Days goes to press.
Mulligan is glad the issue is resolved, but isn’t happy about how he discovered the city’s screw-up.
“To learn from a comment on a friend’s blog that information given to me at an election training was incorrect is disconcerting,” Mulligan said.
Still, thanks to Mulligan, it’s good to know someone in charge of watching the election process is actually doing just that.
Fair Game

1 comment:

Joyce McCloy said...

I'm in North Carolina where there were IRV pilots legislated. 2 cities tried it in 2007, but only 1 came back, Hendersonville. H'ville didn't ask its voters before adopting the pilot. They never counted the 2nd and 3rd choice votes. There is no software to tally the votes, so if they had to count them, they were going to use illegal uncertified software to do so. Hendersonville has ES&S iVotronic touchscreens.

Cary NC used IRV in 2007 and tallied the 2nd and 3rd choice votes for one contest - manually. They have optical scanners. These were election officials counting and they still messed it up and an audit arose, then the votes were retallied. Mess.

Aspen CO voters rejected IRV after one very fouled up election:

Ireland wins Aspen mayoral race again
Error found in instant runoff tally, giving opponent Marks 16 fewer votes
Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado,
ASPEN — Due to a computer software error, it turns out Mick Ireland won the Aspen mayoral seat on May 5 by a larger margin than originally reported.

There's a court case going on now in Aspen to have the city turn over the ballot images to the public. So far only some city officials and the voting vendor have had access to all of the ballot images. The public is shut out.

Meanwhile, there's a lawsuit in San Francisco over the way IRV is administered - voters can only rank 3 even if there's a dozen. This means many have no say at all in the final outcome.

There's a reason IRV has been around for about a hundred years but keeps getting rejected - it errodes election transparency and it disenfranchises voters.
See www.instantrunoffvoting.us