Sunday, June 27, 2010

More of the same old IRV "gas"....

Like I have written in numerous postings, I knew when the Democratic US Senate race went to runoff, there would be more of the same old tired calls for IRV. And I even said that these claims would be couched as "a better way".

Sure enough - here comes another such bogus claim in the form of an AP wire story printed in the Daily Reflector: - it should be called the Daily Mirage!

Is there a better way than primary runoff for NC?

The Associated Press
Sunday, June 27, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A turnout of 4.5 percent of the eligible voters was better than expected for North Carolina's second primary last week, raising the question of whether runoffs have outlived their usefulness.

I think the only people raising that question are people trying to push IRV and their friends on the editorial boards.

Fifty years ago, when North Carolina was a one-party state, nearly as many people would vote in a statewide Democratic runoff as the first race, because their votes likely would choose the eventual winner of the general election. Today, in a competitive two-party state, turnout at the local firehouse on the day of the runoff may not be much more than the poll workers themselves.

Then a primary in a one-part state wasn't really much of a primary, was it? If, as the promoters of IRV claim, more choice is supposed to be better and leads to greater voter turnout - why aren't more voters taking part in non-presidential year primary elections?

That's led some election reform advocates to argue there's got to be a better way to choose only a handful of nominees who didn't win the first time.

"One way or another, it seems like the runoff election systems for picking a party's nominee in a statewide election is outdated," said Bob Hall, with the election reform group Democracy North Carolina.

This is interesting that Bob Hall claims that runoffs are outdated. The solution he proposes is also advocated by groups who want to make political parties irrelevant: make all races non-partisan.

But remember our state motto: Esse quam videri (to be rather than to seem). Just because a runoff seems outdated to Bob Hall or to other IRV/RCV advocates, it doesn't mean that runoffs have ceased to serve a valuable purpose.

Save for experiments in two municipalities with voters ranking candidates on the first election day, North Carolina lawmakers don't seem interested in changing the runoff system. Some like it because it ultimately declares victory to the candidate who receives a majority of votes.

There were three experiments in two municipalities: one in Cary in 2007 where 25% of voters didn't know they'd be expected to rank their choices and 30% didn't understand IRV, and two in Hendersonville (one in 2007 and one in 2009) where 33% of voters didn't know they'd be expected to rank their choices. Only in one district race in Cary was IRV used to determine a final winner, and the tabulation process was so messed up that, in the end, the winner only got 1401 votes out of 3022 - not a majority.

"I realize turnout's low and it costs a lot of money, but it still keeps people in the process," said Rep. Phil Haire, D-Jackson. He's a past critic of legislation that would reduce or eliminate the 40 percent threshold a candidate must surpass in the first primary to avoid a runoff. "I believe in elections."

Interestingly enough, before the threshold was dropped to 40%, the number of races that went to runoff was higher - but so was the turnout! Dropping the threshold decreased the number of races that went to runoff and also decreased the turnout. So if you believe in upholding the will of the People, you have to give them a chance to tell you want they want - and they do that by voting.

North Carolina is one of only nine states - all in the South - where runoffs are used regularly in all races, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The leading vote-getter must receive a majority of all votes cast to avoid a primary or general election runoff in each one except North Carolina, where the threshold fell to 40 percent in 1990 after some argued that it was preventing minorities from becoming nominees.

It was also done to decrease the number of runoff elections in the hope of lowering costs - but that doesn't matter if the runoff is in a statewide race.

if 42 other states don't have runoff elections, why not just get rid of them? If all you care about is saving money, why not just have a primary election and give the nomination to the person who gets the most votes?

State Rep. Mickey Michaux, who came out on the losing end of a 1982 congressional primary runoff, said the primary runoff is outdated and puts the winner in a tough position entering the general election against the opposing party's nominee.

"It's too expensive and it doesn't do the (candidates) any good to beat up on each other," said Michaux, D-Durham.

Some African-American candidates feel differently - and have used the runoff to their advantage much more recently than Michaux's race 28 years ago. Durham's Stella Adams, 1st Vice Chair of the NC Democratic Party, feels that runoffs are a good thing - and IRV is a bad thing. So much so that she threatened legal action if Durham adopted IRV. African American municipal office candidates in Rocky Mount and Wilmington benefited from runoffs in 2007 - the first year of the IRV pilot program. Rocky Mount was one of the communities that voted "no" on IRV that year!

Unofficial elections data show 212,833 registered voters cast ballots in last Tuesday's runoff out of a potential 4.7 million who were qualified to vote in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, three GOP races for Congress, a state Senate race and local races.

Recent history shows runoff turnouts ranging from 1.8 percent in 2008 to as high as 8 percent. Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, had estimated the turnout would be on the low end of that range, but the percentage improved as the U.S. Senate runoff between Cal Cunningham and Elaine Marshall attracted more than 158,000 votes. Marshall won the nomination.

Marshall won the nomination with a clear majority of the votes cast in the June primary, not a smaller number of votes in an IRV round which was less than the number of votes she would have needed to win the first round. A traditional runoff also allowed the two remaining candidates more time to communicate with the voters compared with trying to do so in a field of 6 before the May primary. It also gave the other candidates in the May primary a chance to endorse one of the two remaining candidates - something that was impossible for them to do in a traditional runoff. Candidates also didn't have to tell voters how to rank them in with other candidates, wasting time and diluting their main message.

Bartlett estimated the costs for all 100 counties to put on the elections at between $3.5 million and $5 million. Counties want the General Assembly to eliminate the runoff elections, citing the expense, said Todd McGee with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

What counties what the GA to eliminate the runoffs? And replace them with what - IRV elections that are more confusing for voters, more complex to administer, and more costly all around?

Think $3.5 to $5 million is expensive? Try $20 million to implement IRV statewide, and $3 million for voter education every year there is an election. You'd NEVER break even with IRV!

State Republican Party officials also used the runoff to their advantage in the 8th District race, where Tim D'Annunzio finished first in the May 4 primary but received 36 percent of the votes. They took the unusual position of actively backing second-place finisher Harold Johnson after documents from D'Annunzio's divorce revealed past drug use and bizarre religious claims. Johnson cruised to the runoff victory.

And with IRV/RCV, D'Annunzio would have most likely won an IRV race, because over 95% of IRV races ultimately are won by the first place finisher in the first round. Republicans would have been stuck with this guy! Voters would have been robbed of the chance to learn vital information about one of their candidates that was only made available after the primary election. In traditional runoffs, the second place finisher flips and wins the runoff 33% of the time. Which seems more "democratic"?

An alternative to primary runoffs could include making the parties choose between the two leading vote-getters at a party caucus or convention. The state also could require parties to pay for their runoffs.

The General Assembly agreed in 2006 to let some towns and cities use "instant runoff voting" for municipal elections. Voters in Cary and Hendersonville have used the method, where voters rank their order of preference among listed candidates. A runoff winner is chosen by counting the top choice for the two top vote-getters on ballots of voters whose first-choice candidate was eliminated. Those choices are added to the original counts of the two leaders. The candidate with the most combined votes is the winner.

NC's one and only election decided by IRV (because there wasn't a first round majority winner) was the Cary District B election. 3022 votes were cast in 8 precincts, in early voting and via absentee by mail balloting. It took the Wake BOE an entire day to set up, sort, stack and count those ballots. It was not done according to published rules that called for overhead projectors for observers to make sure ballots were sorted properly, and for only board members to handle ballots. Instead, ballots were split up among board members and volunteers and were sorted in a mad rush, denying observers a chance to see not only if the ballots were sorted properly, but also to see if voters had problems ranking candidates properly. The process was so confusing for board members that one had to swap his duties with the volunteer tally sheet writer.

At the end of the day, the BOE had a different total than the observers had. They discovered a calculator error, then decided to do a full-blown non-public recount of the votes in the office of a staff member. No candidate or observer was present for the recount, or even notified. more missing votes were discovered, but I guess we'll just have to trust this secret recount. In the end, Don Frantz had 1401 out of 3022 votes. In other words, Frantz won with 1401 IRV votes when he would have needed 1512 to win the first round.

North Carolina State University professor Michael Cobb said surveys he assembled on voters of both towns showed an overwhelmingly majority found it easy to understand. It also saved another trip to the polls.

"Instant runoff voting isn't necessarily the best method but it certainly has a lot of positive features," Cobb said.

What positive features?

Does it cost less? No - other jurisdictions that have done a more thorough cost accounting of IRV have shown that IRV costs more than traditional elections - in some cases more than a regular election and a runoff. Pierce County, WA discovered that IRV doubled the cost of their elections. Minneapolis discovered that one single IRV election cost them $365,000 more than holding two elections 4 years earlier - and that was even adjusting for inflation.

The MD Legislature has done two detailed fiscal studies of IRV (which is two more than our legislature has done) and come up with some costs for IRV - an increase of $3.10 to $3.50 per registered voter that does not include the cost of new election equipment because there is no federally certified voting equipment that will handle IRV. Add to that a pitiful $0.48 per voter for voter education.

MD is a state that's a little smaller than NC, but has a similar diversity in population. Applying those costs to NC would $20 million to implement IRV statewide (not including certified equipment to tabulate the vote - which doesn't exist) and $3 million for voter education every year there is an election. You'd NEVER break even with IRV!

Does it increase voter turnout? No - turnout in the 2009 MN IRV election was the lowest in over 100 years! In San Francisco, turnout is down 100,000 voters since they first began using IRV in 2004.

Joyce McCloy, founder of the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting, said instant runoff voting requires intense voter education but still leaves an unacceptable percentage of voters confused.

"I don't really hear any demands from voters or political parties to end the runoffs," McCloy said.

Is IRV confusing for voters? Yes - the numbers provided by Dr. Cobb's survey show that 25% of Cary voters and 33% of Hendersonville voters didn't know they'd be expected to rank their choices in the 2007 IRV elections. This were numbers from an exit poll conducted by IRV advocates. Some of those folks failed to follow instructions for educating voters on the way in - in order to provide a more positive outcome for the survey. So it's very likely that a greater percentage of voters might not have understood or been ready for IRV.

Another survey done in 2008 by the Town of Cary (no IRV advocates asking the questions) showed that 30% of voters didn't understand IRV.

It looks like a majority of people understand IRV and were ready to rank candidates, but those numbers are shocking for several reasons. IRV disenfranchised 25% of those Cary voters and 33% of those Hendersonville voters who bothered to show up. 30% of Cary voters didn't understand IRV - so how many people are going to take part in an election they don't understand or know they have to rank candidates in? If we want more voters to participate in elections - we don't want to make it so complicated that voters will stay away.

And these two experiments took place in communities where they have a very educated and literate voting population. Across our state, NC has some terrifyingly low rates of adult literacy in many of our counties. Do we really want to make voting more complicated for the very people that have the greatest stake in voting to elect the right people to make public policy choices to help get these people better education, jobs and opportunities in life?

Is IRV easy to count? No - in fact there are no certified voting systems we can purchase here in NC that are able to tabulate IRV ballots. Our own NC State Board of Elections said as much in March 2007 when they said it was too risky to use IRV in the May 2008 primary election unless we have certified upgrades.

The stuff we have won't do IRV unless we jury-rig the hell out of it and violate all sorts of election law and regulations. There is no way to do all the vote counting at precincts which our law now requires.

How would we tabulate IRV ballots cast on DRE touchscreen voting machines? Simple - you load the 2nd and 3rd column votes into an Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (no federal certification for election use - and how do you verify it's been done right?) and then let the machines do the work. It's impossible to duplicate this procedure by hand as required by NC election law. And whether you vote on paper op-scan ballots or on a DRE machine - each IRV election would have to be done totally separate before doing another one - and recounts would have to wait till ALL IRV contests are settled. Recounts and election audits would be so complicated and expensive that we'd be finding reasons NOT to do them - and then changing our laws to eliminate the need for them.

Election integrity advocates worked very hard to get the Public Confidence in Elections Act passed in 2005, over the objections of electronic voting advocates and others who were also pushing IRV. IRV advocates claim they are only advocating electoral reforms that make the process more democratic, but IRV's complexity tends to incentivize more complex and costly electronic voting equipment that makes IRV easier to administer but less verifiable.

So why are all these editorial boards pushing IRV when it doesn't deliver on promised benefits? Or can't they do critical thinking and just want to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Now Terry Bouricius has no shame: falsehoods about IRV cost-savings in North Carolina!

When I realized we'd be having a statewide runoff for the Democratic party nominee for US Senate, I knew I'd be reading a lot of editorials, op-ed pieces, letters to the editor, blogs, etc., calling for IRV because it's cheaper and saves time. And I knew I'd be refuting the intellectually misleading and (in some cases) dishonest claims supporting IRV - I had already done it it after the 2008 statewide primary runoff.

But some of the claims are just outrageous nonsense! Especially the claim on FairyTaleVote's IRV Factcheck 10:03 AM today about cost savings in Cary NC in 2007 :
Cary (NC) and Hendersonville (NC) are two cities that have participated in a state pilot program similar to the program envisioned in the New York legislation – a law first passed in 2006 and extended and expanded for three more years in 2008 after two IRV elections in 2007. The Wake County Board of Elections director Cherie Poucher estimates that IRV saved Cary $280,000 in its election in 2007, and would have saved as much as four times that amount if the mayor’s race had gone to a runoff.
Terry - this is totally wrong. Cherie Poucher claimed that IRV only saved $28,000 in the election of 2007 because there was only one district of 8 precincts that needed to use IRV tabulation.

Your claim of saving four times $280,000 (somewhere around $1.2 million) if the mayor's race had gone to a runoff is also bogus. Your own buddy Bob Hall of DemocracyNC (one of your front-line troopers pushing IRV in NC) made a different claim:

How much money is IRV expected to save?

About $62,000. That's what the Town of Cary would have had to reimburse the county if they had to hold a second election, open all 36 precincts, print ballots, pay staff and so on. All elections are paid for by local governments.
And it gets better. Here are the dollar amounts for the entire Town of Cary and Wake County from the Wake BOE Chair Dr. John Gilbert and BOE Executive Director Cherie Poucher:

Gilbert said the instant runoff would save the county about $62,000. The savings will come because polling places, and workers to staff them, will not be needed in Cary in November.

For a full countywide election, the savings could be about $337,000, Poucher said. That amount is what the board has budgeted for second primaries, currently the closest comparison the county and state have to runoffs.

Terry - are you math-challenged? Don't you realize that $62K for the ENTIRE Town of Cary is a lots less than the $280,000 savings you claim for 8 precincts and the $1.2 million you claim for the entire Town! Cherie Poucher said that IRV for the entire county would save only $337,000 - which is a lot less than the amount you claim for the entire Town of Cary.

Geeze - if you can't get those basic facts right in a blog called IRV Factcheck, what the hell good is it?

NOTE on June 26, 2010: I checked the IRV Factcheck blog and the extra zero had been taken out, bringing the figure down to $28,000 - in keeping with the figure provided by Wake BOE ED Cherie Poucher. But they still haven't fixed the totally false claim for a savings of four times the amount of the single District Race. 4 times $28K is $112,000 - still $50,000 more than the amount alleged by Dr. John Gilbert for the Mayor's race. Furthermore, nothing has been done to tally up the value of the in-kind services provided to the IRV pilot program in Cary by non-profits by FairVote, FairVoteNC, DemocracyNC, the League of Women Voters, NC Center For Voter Education, and the pro-bono work by commercial businesses.

Until the value of the in-kind services provided by non-profits and pro-bono work done by commercial businesses, any amount of money claimed to have been saved by using IRV cannot be taken seriously.
Hendersonville has implemented IRV with little cost, and while no runoffs have been avoided, savings would have been immediate if there had been runoffs. After voting unanimously to use IRV for a second time in 2009, the Hendersonville city council in 2010 voted to explore how it could make IRV a permanent part of its elections.
Geeze Terry - are you lying or can you not check your own FairyTaleVote archives? The 2009 Hendersonville vote was not unanimous - it was 4 to 1!

Council approves instant runoff for next city election

By John Harbin
Published April 10th 2009 in Times-News

The Hendersonville City Council voted 4 to 1 to use the instant runoff voting method in this year’s election.
The person who voted against using IRV was Councilman Steve Caraker:

“I was elected under the process,” Councilman Steve Carker said. “In information I have received since then, I feel this system needs more trial. I will vote against it.”
Yet another official elected under IRV who doesn't like it - just like Don Franz from Cary.

Part of the problem with these claims for saving money is the way that IRV has been implemented both in Cary and Hendersonville is that it was done under the table and off the books. All the cost savings have been shifted of the taxpayer's books. So we will never know exactly how much IRV cost Hendersonville in 2009. But with IRV, you pay for all the extra costs (whether on or off the books) even if you don't have the instant runoff. You always pay more for IRV whether you need it or not!

IRV advocacy organizations like FairVote (and their local FairVoteNC affiliate), DemocracyNC and the League of Women Voters performed "in kind" work that was not valued properly. FairVoteNC hired a part-time worker named Elana Everett, who ironically was the daughter-in-law of the Wake BOE Chair Dr. John Gilbert, who was one of the biggest advocates of IRV in the state. She was the former head of the NC Green Party, which pushes IRV across the state and nationwide.

Elena, along with Bob Hall and many others, performed many hours of work to promote IRV and do voter education. They even helped design the ballots set up the procedures for doing the IRV tabulation. Some mysterious outside PR firm did work on the IRV pilot in Cary, but no one will name that firm. Elena even called me a liar and claimed I made up the detail about the PR firm until I provided a copy of an e-mail from her father-in-law referring to that PR firm.

What was the value of the services performed by FairVote's Dianne Russell, the paid Director of IRV America when she not only provided voter education for Cary voters but also did exit polling when they came out of the polling place? She admitted in writing that she boiled down her voter education instructions to something quick so that voters would get it and have a positive experience with the system - then presumably tell her how great it was on the way back out. Should we trust exit polls that were influenced by pollsters trying to push something? Then - Russell admitted she faked a southern accent while she was interviewing voters. I presume that voters being interviewed by Russell on the way out would notice if she had a Maine accent on the way into the polls - does that mean Russell faked a southern accent the whole time she was "working" for FairVote in NC?

No one has ever kept track of or placed a value on those hours. If they had done that - would there have been any money saved?

The MD Legislature did fiscal studies of the costs of implementing IRV, and found that IRV would not be cheap. I analyzed those costs, and applied them to NC, and found that it would cost $20 million to implement and $3 million for voter education. There is no way you would break even with IRV - it would always cost more.

And when IRV was used in real elections and all the costs were accounted for (not done under the table and off the books like in NC), IRV DOUBLED the costs of elections in Pierce County, Washington.

And you may have read my blog posting about the higher costs of IRV in Minneapolis during the 2009 election that also had the lowest voter turnout in over 100 years!

So Terry - either you made a mistake by including an extra "zero" you shouldn't have, or you meant to exaggerate the cost savings for IRV. Which is it?

And that's not the only bogus claim you made in that IRV Factcheck posting, but I'll deal with the rest of them at a later time.

But please - if you can't check your facts accurately, stay the hell out of my state. We already have enough people who play fast and loose with the facts here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More incorrect information on IRV in NC!

Well here's more claims that IRV saves money:
Runoff Election Comes With A Price
Tuesday - June 22, 2010
Written by Josh Ellis/David Horn

RALEIGH) -- Tuesday’s runoff election in North Carolina is expected to cost between $4 million and $5 million. That is according to State Board of Elections director Gary Bartlett.

Bartlett said in many ways, the runoff election is just like any other election. "You've got to open up the same polling places. You have got to do ballot coding, ballot printing. You have got to have absentee meetings done by the county boards and then the biggest expense is that you must have the manpower to run the election," said Bartlett.

Of course a runoff is like any other election. It's a separate election where you start out at ZERO.

You can see an interview with Gary Bartlett where he talks about the low turnout runoff and possibilities to change our election laws to decrease the need for low-turnout runoffs. He claims the voters aren't as engaged nor do they consider this as important as a general election. The parties and the general assembly should get together to get more voters to participate in the primary process.

One wonders why in NC, where we have party primaries and so many crybabies claiming that runoffs aren't needed, we just don't do away with thresholds and have winner take all primary elections? The candidate who gets the most votes wins - end of story. 41 other states don't have runoff elections. If we don't want to pay for primary runoffs, why not just get rid of them?

North Carolina Center for Voter Education director Damon Circosta said the high cost of runoff elections could be avoided. "We need to find a way, while we've got people at the polls, to make sure we record what would be their choice in a runoff election, hence the instant runoff voting," said Circosta. "All it is is a system where when you have people at the polls the first time, you record what their choice would be in a runoff scenario and then you don't have to bring them back for a second time and open the polls again."

Damon (and I presume the Center For Voter Education) continue to claim that once that IRV would save the high costs of runoff elections. And where are they getting this information to make the claim that IRV saves money when there is ample evidence from real world elections that IRV not only doesn't save money - it actually costs MORE than having two separate elections (primary & runoff, primary and general election, general election and runoff, etc.).

And yes it is very easy to say that IRV is just a system where you have people at the polls one time and you record their additional choices so they don't have to come back a second time. Problem is, our election equipment in NC won't handle IRV without some risks - risks that our State Board of Elections has been aware of since 2007 when they were first pushing IRV.

I have asked Damon and NC Center for Voter Education President Wayne Goodwin if the Center supports IRV, and if so, why? I still haven't received any response directly addressing those questions. Damon texted me at 11:54 AM today:

Board of cve never taken official position on irv. Cve always seeks to improve elections.
Does this mean that the Board of the CVE feels that IRV improves elections, or is it just the staff that feels that way? If it's just the staff that feels that way, does the Board of the CVE and other non-profit electoral reform groups support the actions of their staff to promote IRV without taking an official position on IRV?

I know why groups like FairVote and DemocracyNC support IRV. But I don't know why other groups support IRV, unless there is some sort of requirement that non-profit groups support each other's agenda no matter what?

And what would be wrong with just going with winner take all in the primary? Or with a sliding scale threshold? Let's keep the 40% threshold. If someone gets greater than 40% - they win outright even if one gets 45% and the other gets 44% (according to both Gary Bartlett and Don Wright of the NC State Board of Elections).

But let's say that the leader got between 30% and 40%. Did the second place finisher get between 30% and 40% - or at least within 10 points? If so - hold a runoff. If not - the leader wins. That way you don't have the expense of a runoff.

The thing about runoff elections is that in a traditional top-two runoff, the second-place finisher "flips" and wins the runoff 33% of the time. In an IRV election, the 1st round winner wins the IRV tabulation in greater than 90-95% of the time. Which seems more democratic?

Note: the story was updated after both Joyce McCloy and myself contacted NCNN to present other information about IRV:

A grassroots group called, "NC Voter" maintains that Instant Runoff Voting is not the solution. The group questions exactly how IRV would be counted. Advocates with the group say the process does not end up saving money and it "does not provide a majority, but awards winners with less than 50 percent of the ballots cast." "NC Voter" references from other states at
Let's hope that before our General Assembly considers all the information on IRV before they get conned into extending the existing IRV pilot program (already extended to 2011 from the original 2009 cut off date) or getting rid of the program altogether and making IRV an approved voting method. From what I heard today both from the SBOE and various legislators, there is no movement to bring up IRV during this short session. But, as one legislator told me, that could change....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I knew it was coming - calls for IRV in statewide NC races!

As soon as I knew that there would be a runoff in the Democratic Primary for US Senate, I knew that various people would be calling for Instant Runoff Voting. Here is one of those claims - from Damon Circosta of the NC Center for Voter Education:

High Cost, Low Turnout Likely for Runoff Elections

By Damon Circosta
Published: June 14, 2010

RALEIGH - Most people don’t equate summer with election season. When one conjures up visions of voting the images are typically of a crisp autumn day. Or perhaps for primary voters Election Day might involve sprouting trees and the blooms of a North Carolina spring.
Summer, for both voters and politicians, is usually a quiet time. The public’s attention is on other things like vacation plans and kids camps. Candidates are usually out of the spotlight and quietly amassing resources for the fall campaign.

But every so often, election season extends into the dog days of summer.

This year, for many voters across the state, there is an opportunity to engage in democracy. But with so much else on the minds of the electorate, most of us won’t be braving the heat to head to the polls.
Really - summer is not a season for elections? Who says so? We have always known that runoffs occur after an election. Knowing that elections require a runoff vote - why should this be a surprise for an informed electorate? Or for someone who works for the Center For Voter Education?

Shouldn't the "Center For Voter Education" be among the chief drum-beaters trying to get people out to vote, instead of lamenting why people aren't getting out to vote - thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

North Carolina law provides for a runoff to be held if no candidate achieves more than 40 percent of the vote in a primary election. In the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, as well as in Republican primary contests for congressional districts 8, 12 and 13, no clear winner prevailed. These races are headed for a June 22 runoff election between the top two candidates.
When the threshold used to be higher, we had more runoffs, and higher turnout for those runoffs. When we lowered the threshold, we didn't need as many runoffs, and we ended up having lower turnout for the runoffs we had.

Perhaps the remedy for low-turnout runoff elections is not to lower the threshold but to raise it?

Turnout projections are exceedingly low for these runoffs. In a state with about 6 million registered voters, fewer than 100,000 will likely show up to the polls. Nevertheless, the expense of holding a statewide election remains relatively constant. It doesn’t matter if two people or 2,000 people show up at a precinct. It must be opened and staffed all day.
While it is correct that there are over 6 million registered voters in NC, there are not that many registered Democrats who could vote in the runoff. According to the NC State Board of Elections as of 11:40PM on June 20, 2010, there are only 2,750,763 registered Democrats who could vote in the Statewide Primary for US Senate in the Democratic Primary.

Unaffiliated voters could vote in either the Democratic or Republican ballot in the May primary, they would have to vote the same ballot in the runoff election. I am not sure how many of the state's 1,410,324 UNA voters voted the Democratic ballot in May and thus would be eligible to vote in the June runoff.
In the Democratic Senate primary, some people expressed concern when Cal Cunningham, the second-place finisher, called for a runoff. Citing concerns about the $5 million expense of holding a statewide election and doubts about his ability to overcome frontrunner Elaine Marshall, these critics said it was an irresponsible move. While reasonable people may disagree about his prospects, it sets a dangerous precedent when we ask candidates to bow out of elections to spare the state the expense.
While I agree that some people expressed concern that Cal ran, it was his right under the law to call for a runoff because he was the second-place finisher and the first-place finisher didn't cross the threshold.

And I agree that it sets a dangerous precedent when we ask candidates to bow out of a runoff election to spare the state the expense. But I don't agree that we should endanger election integrity and public confidence in elections in our state to experiment further with Instant Runoff Voting.
Administering elections can be a costly enterprise. Accessible polls and accurately counted votes require resources. While everyone likes to see our government operate as cost-effectively as possible, scrimping on the very mechanism we use to hold our government accountable doesn’t make sense.

There are ways to achieve more citizen input in a less costly manner than holding a second primary election. Some municipalities in North Carolina and other states have experimented with something called instant runoff voting.
Yes - some municipalities have experimented with IRV. Some do not like it. Cary and Hendersonville tried it in 2007. Cary had the state's only election where IRV was used to count voter's second and third choices when no one won the election on the first choice alone. The Wake County Board of Elections couldn't follow the complicated hand sort/stack and counting procedures, and made some calculator errors that necessitated a secret count the next day with no outside observers or candidates knew about or attended. That secret count found some votes that had been missed the previous day. And out of the original 3022 first column votes, the winner of that race got 1401 votes - 111 votes short of the 1512 votes he would have needed to win in the first column of votes.

Hendersonville tried it, but had winners using just the first column votes. Hendersonville tried IRV again in 2009, and also had winners using just the first column votes. They never needed to count the additional voter choices, and there is no evidence that the Henderson County BOE could have accomplished that task using their DRE touchscreen voting machines.

Quite simply, the voting equipment that North Carolina uses is not certified to tabulate IRV ballots. That's why all the IRV experiments have either used complicated and confusing hand-counting methods like in Cary, or hybrid and jury-rigged counting methods proposed for DRE machines that involve somehow porting voting data over to Excel Spreadsheets, where the tabulation will be done all by machine with little to no possibility for outside observers to verify the tabulations.
The idea is that during the first primary election, voters are offered the opportunity to select whom they would vote for if there were to be a runoff. It’s not perfect and would require spending some money to make sure that the instant runoff system was accurate and secure. But such a system could save money in the long run and also make voting more convenient, hopefully increasing turnout.
Studies done by legislatures that take their responsibilities seriously (as our NC legislator fail to do when it comes to IRV) and real world experiences of places like Pierce County, WA and even Minneapolis MN have shown that IRV does not save money - it actually costs more money.

The MD legislature performed fiscal studies on IRV in 2006 and 2008, and costs per registered voter in MD ranged from an additional $3.08 to $3.50 per registered voter to implement IRV, and an extra $0.48 per registered voter for voter education each and every year there was an election. Applying those very reasonable costs to our state's 6 million voters - it would cost between $18 to $20 MILLION to implement IRV right up front and $3 million each and every year for voter education. Using those very reasonable costs, we'd never break even with IRV even if we needed a statewide runoff every two years!

Pierce County WA found their costs DOUBLED using IRV. IRV cost Minneapolis voters more: a primary and general election in 2005 was $1.12 million (adjusted 2009 dollars) vs. $1.46 million for one single IRV election. Furthermore, Minneapolis found that turnout for their first IRV election was the lowest since 1902 - in over 100 years! IRV has been used in San Francisco since 2004, and costs have gone up while turnout has gone down!

And another problem with continued calls for using IRV in NC is that our own State Board of Elections stated in 2007 (before the first communities decided to use IRV) was that IRV was too risky to use for statewide primary elections (like in 2008 and 2010) because it would violate state and federal election laws. There simply were no certified voting systems (machines and software) that was federally certified to do IRV elections in 2008 - nor in 2010.

Under the system used for certifying voting systems, the voting system companies have to get the whole system tested - not just the machines and software, but even the documentation and the manual procedures. Companies have to submit the whole system for federal certification which they have to pay for. And since there are many different IRV vote counting methods and each is much more complicated than single-column elections, few (if any) companies want to foot the bill. So should we lower our standards for claims of savings and increased turnout that haven't materialized in the experiments done so far?

That's the experimental side - the IRV pilot program in NC. It was originally supposed to run from 2007 through 2009 (inclusive) where only two communities used it in 2007 - but 4 communities voted "no" on IRV: Asheville, Atlantic Beach, Raleigh and Rocky Mount.

So even though no one could use IRV in 2008 because it was deemed "too risky", some of the same advocacy groups pushing IRV now came out right after the June 2008 Democratic Labor Commissioner Runoff to call for extending the IRV pilot - citing mainly the need to save money. They got the pilot program extended until 2011, but only one community - Hendersonville where they never really put IRV to the full test - used it in 2009.

Where IRV was mandated as an election method that must be used, it has also fallen short on promises. IRV was dumped in Burlington, VT by a larger majority and a larger turnout of voters than in the referendum that voted to use IRV. 67% of Pierce County WA voters voted to dump IRV after only one try. Aspen CO voters gave IRV a no--confidence vote after only one try, and now the Aspen DA is investigating whether or not the IRV election violated state election laws.
Short of implementing instant runoff voting, there are other changes we could make, such as rethinking the requirement that a candidate must get 40 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. Our election system is not set in stone. Using the democratic process, we are free to alter the system to make it more effective.
Not really sure that lowering the threshold is the right way to go, since turnout has only gone down in runoffs since the threshold has been lowered. Perhaps set a sliding threshold based on where the top vote getter placed compared with where the second-place finisher did - and factoring in how many other candidates there were? And not sure we want to say that it's more effective to us a confusing and complex vote counting method that we claim saves money but really doesn't?
The fraction of registered voters who will carve out some time on June 22 to vote, or who cast a ballot using the early voting system, hold a considerable amount of sway in this election. It’s time to consider ways of changing the election process so more of us will get involved.
Yes it is true that we need to get more people involved. So let's raise the thereshold for winning a primary election, so that more elections go to runoff and we get more bang for our runoff buck!

And by all means, let's not have our local Boards of Elections do things to discourage people from voting. They should be encouraging people to wait in line to be the first to vote like people wait in line to buy concert tickets - instead of trying to run people off!

But we in North Carolina are fortunate in many ways that our election administration systems are better than in many other states. After passage of the Public Confidence in Elections Act in 2005, NC was ranked #1 in election audit accuracy in 2006 by the non-profit Brennan Center. The same group ranked NC as being one of the 8 states best able to run the 2008 general election. Election integrity advocates have worked hard to get NC where we are today, and we have to be vigilant to make sure that we know enough about so-called "electoral reforms" like IRV before we decide whether or not we want to implement them.

North Carolina has better elections than South Carolina. SC has open primaries (where you can cross party lines and vote for candidates in other parties even if you are not an Unaffiliated voter). Their elections are run on paperless DRE touchscreen machines that were decertified for us in other states. They can't even tell whether or not there was any election fraud in their Democratic US Senate primary, because to check for fraud in that one race might challenge the integrity of ALL SC elections. Those same machines are used in the SC general election - including for US President - so how could we possibly trust them to correctly record and count any election. And add to that mess the fact that some folks are pushing for National Popular Vote for President to abolish the Electoral College and you can see why we shouldn't be pushing for ANYTHING that will further complicate election integrity.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

IRVFactcheck fails to deal with majority failure

The folks at the pro-IRV/RCV astro-turf group "IRV Factcheck" are at it again - this time Rob Richie and the folks at FairyTaleVote are using some really bogus ENRON-type "math" to explain how IRV really does deliver majorities:
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Rebutting the "Majority Failure" Argument Against IRV

One misleading argument made by some IRV opponents is that a "real" runoff (top two runoff, with a second election weeks or months after the first) produces a "real" majority, but that IRV may not produce such a majority. This argument is based on using different standards to compute majorities under IRV and traditional runoffs.
OK Rob - IRV and traditional runoffs are two different types of elections - why not use different standards to compute majorities?

In a traditional runoff, you start from ZERO and you then count all the new votes. You don't add the new votes to the old votes like you do with IRV. Traditional runoff elections are easier to count than IRV elections also. And as Minneapolis has proven, two elections (a primary and a general election) are cheaper than one IRV election!
These IRV opponents argue that there is a failure to produce a "real" majority under IRV because they use the total number of votes in the first round to compute a majority, not the total number of votes cast in the instant runoff. Sometimes the number of exhausted ballots - that is, ballots that don't rank any of the remaining candidates in the final instant runoff - can mean that neither of the two finalists has more than 50% of the votes cast in the first round.
Sometimes? Rob - try the largest freaking majority of the time!
The mayoral election in Burlington (VT) in 2009 is used as an example of this "failure." In the first round of that election, the results were:

Kurt Wright 2,951
Bob Kiss 2,585
Andy Montroll 2,063
Dan Smith 1,306
Write-ins 36
James Simpson 35
(With four invalid ballots, three of which were later found to be valid in a partial recount.)
OK - are we talking about 8976 total votes, or 8976 ballots of which only one was found to be invalid? What the hell is an "invalid ballot" anyway?

OK - let's play their game. Let's go with 8975 - and a majority would be 4488 votes (50% would be 4487.5 and rounded up one would be 4488). What did Bob Kiss get?
In the final result of the election, the results were:

Bob Kiss 4,313
Kurt Wright 4,061
(with 602 exhausted ballots and the 4 invalid ballots)
OK - so are you counting 3 out of the 4 invalid ballots in the first round but then claiming all 4 to be invalid in this round?

4313 is 175 votes short of the number of votes needed to have won in the first round. This is an example of "ENRON vote counting" that you get from IRV. How can 4313 votes be a majority in any subsequent round of IRV when it wasn't enough to win in the first round? Rob and the True Believers will no doubt explain.....
IRV opponents argue that although Kiss won a majority of the valid ballots in the final round of voting, he failed to win a "real" majority because his final round votes were only 48% of the votes case in the first round.
Yes - that's right - Kiss didn't win a real majority. Nice to finally hear you admit it!
IRV advocates point out that the result was due to some voters exercising their option to abstain from a choice between the two finalists - just as many registered voters abstained from voting in the first place. That doesn't change the fact that winner Bob Kiss earned majority support from voters who chose to indicate a preference for either him or Kurt Wright.
No Rob - we claim that Kiss didn't win a real majority of the first column voters. Most voters don't understand the subtle differences that you are trying to explain. But they do understand that you are trying to sell them two different explanations of what a "majority" is: one for the first round, and a totally different one for IRV.
Australia avoids this possible outcome by requiring voters to rank all candidates in its IRV races for the House of Representatives. That's certainly an option for those who care about this definition of a majority, and it does ensure the voters take the time to indicate their last choice along with their first choice. But if eligible voters have the right to skip voting altogether, some will argue that they have the right to skip ranking candidates they don't like.
Actually Rob, all such a requirement ensures is that voters will rank one or maybe two candidates per race - the rest will just be meaningless place fillers to ensure that their first one or two votes counts. Because they really don't know a damn thing about the other candidates - it's called "donkey voting" and my friend Lisa's husband who lives in Australia says that's how they vote!
But it's not fair to say that in contrast to IRV, traditional runoff produces a "real" majority while discounting the total number of votes cast in the first round when calculating a majority.
Actually Rob - it's very fair to say that. That is because a traditional runoff election a totally separate election from the election that required the runoff. It gives the voters a chance to consider the two remaining candidates in a totally new light from the original election. If your candidate made it to the runoff, you are free to vote for the same candidate again if you like, vote for another candidate, or vote for no candidate. You don't have those freedoms with IRV.

In fact, with some types of IRV where you can only vote for 3 candidates, and there are more than 3 candidates in the race, you might very well vote for candidates that never make it past the 1st round. You had two additional choices - and none of those counted. Which means that you don't even have a chance to participate in the IRV runoff.

Compare and contrast that with a traditional runoff where, if your candidate doesn't make it, you can vote for one of the remaining two, or not vote at all. But at least you have a chance to be heard in the runoff - you don't always get that with IRV.
But it's not fair to say that in contrast to IRV, traditional runoff produces a "real" majority while discounting the total number of votes cast in the first round when calculating a majority. By this argument, Vincent Dober won a "real" majority in the March 2009 Burlington's City Council Ward 7 election even though he received considerably fewer votes in the second round of the runoff election than his opponent received in the first:

Round 1:
Ellie Blais 461
Vincent Dober 612
Eli Lesser-Goldsmith 619
Write-ins 4
These are the results from the March 3, 2009 election where there was no IRV. 1696 votes cast on March 3, 2009 - 50% plus one vote is 849. No one got 849, so they had a runoff. So any runoff had to start again from ZERO - got it?
Round 2
Vincent Dober 515
Eli-Lesser Goldsmith 425
This is from the runoff election held on March 24, 2009 - totally separate election. Not an IRV election. That means you start at ZERO - you don't add totals from one day's election to the totals from another day's election. Out of a total of 940 votes cast on March 23, 2009 - Dober got 54.79% of the votes (a clear majority) and Goldsmith got 45.21%.

But Rob and the gang don't seem to understand that that Ward 7 had an election and a separate runoff. So IRV rules (whatever they happen to be at any given place and time with their slippery always changing thresholds) don't apply.
Under the standards that IRV opponents apply to IRV, we would use the first round totals to compute a majority, and Dober in the runoff would have secured only 30% of the vote - a considerably worse majority "failure" than in the Mayoral election held at the same time with IRV.
Actually - IRV supporters can't seem to tell the difference between IRV and non-IRV elections, or understand why the total number of 1st round votes in a general election wouldn't have any bearing on a runoff.
IRV opponents can't have it both ways.
Really Rob - isn't it you IRV advocates who are trying to have it both ways? Selling IRV as a single election but applying two different standards for victory?
Either Bob Kiss and Vincent Dober both won majorities or neither of them did. Under normal usage, the candidate with more than 50% of the votes counted in the final round is called a "majority winner."
Actually Rob, that's an incredibly lame argument you are making. First off, the Kiss election was an IRV election and the Dober election was not. You are arguing for sliding thresholds in elections - something that most people object to even when you try and obfuscate by talking about % turnout in subsequent IRV rounds vs. traditional runoffs.

With IRV when you starting ENRON election math, you run into the old sliding scale. Where a winner of an IRV election settled with votes in the rounds beyond the first round has fewer votes than needed to have won in the 1st round of the IRV contest. In fact, it's entirely possible for someone to win an IRV election with not a single additional vote counted from one round to another. In fact, if fewer voters just decided to stop ranking their choices, someone who wasn't a winner in the 3rd round of a race might be the winner in the the 4th round without gaining a single additional vote! Dropping turnout could cause someone to win!
A more consistent standard to compare IRV and traditional runoffs would be to look at the decline in participation from the first round to the last. In the Mayoral election under IRV, 93% of the voters who cast a ballot in the first round ended up participating in the final round. In the City Council election under a traditional runoff, only 55% of the voters who cast a ballot in the first round ended up participating in the second round.
But what does that prove? More voters participating in all the rounds of the IRV election for mayor didn't result in a winner with a clear majority of the votes cast in the first round. But the City Council Ward 7 races were two separate races. And there was a clear majority winner in the runoff.

Just like there was a real majority of Burlington voters who spoke loudly in 2010 when they voted to dump IRV in Burlington.
Another revealing example is the 2008 U.S. Senate election in Georgia. Incumbent Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss won re-election in a December runoff after falling short of a majority in November. Turnout in the second round was only 57% of the first round in spite of the fact that a Democratic filibuster-proof majority was at stake in the Senate.
First round:
Saxby Chambliss 1,867,097
Jim Martin 1,757,393
Allen Buckley 127,923
Write-ins 72
Total 3,752,577
Second round:
Saxby Chambliss 1,228,033
Jim Martin 909,923
Total 2,137,956
Rob - there was no second round in the 2008 GA US Senate race. There was a separate general election and a separate runoff. Are you deliberately trying to confuse people by comparing a separate runoff election to IRV?

And many people felt that the reason why the runoff went the way it did was because Chambliss made the runoff a race about "race" - the race of President-elect Obama. Chamblis turned out the vote in the runoff by making the runoff all about overturning the Obama victory in November. He even got McCain and Palin to campaign for him.

Martin was very conscious of his role in perhaps being the 60th vote in the Senate. Indeed his whole runoff campaign was about continuing the change to help Obama. What a pity that Obama For America (the president-elect's campaign operation) folded up their tents and didn't do the work in GA that would have given Obama a veto-proof majority. That short-sightedness on the part of Obama For America (and the successor organization Organizing For America) cost the President and the Democratic Party victories in the NJ and VA governor's races in late 2009 and the Mass Senate special election in early 2010.
If this election was held under IRV, the number of ballots cast for the final round would have been at least 96.6% of the first round total. It would likely have been higher, as most of Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley's supporters probably would have indicated a second preference. Even if Buckley won a far larger share of the vote and none of his supporters cast votes for their second choice, it would have been mathematically impossible for final round votes to fall to only 57% of the first round total as under a traditional runoff.
What the hell difference would it have made what % of the ballots cast in the final round of an GA senate race held under IRV? First off, GA uses DRE touchscreen voting machines and they can't even be sure they can count them correctly. It was proven that uncertified software patches were administered to the Diebold DRE machines in 2002 - which probably had an effect on giving the race to Chambliss in 2002. Buckely was a Libertarian, and we have no way to know what percentage of them would have ranked a second choice. And those that had cast a second choice would have been more likely to vote for Chambliss than for Martin. Sort of like how the 2007 Cary District B race would have been different had it been a traditional runoff vs. IRV

Another point is that there was no certified software that could count the IRV ballots in this race. They would have most likely had to be counted by hand and given the turnout in the November 2008 election, the IRV tabulations would not have been calculated before the results of the simpler to tabulate separate GA senate runoff elections were done.
To be fair, it is possible for second round turnout to exceed that of the first round under a traditional runoff - and every now and then it happens. However, large declines in turnout seem to be the norm under traditional runoffs - sometimes dramatically so, with turnout falling on the order of ten times in statewide primary runoffs in Texas and North Carolina in 2008. Federal primary runoffs in the several stats that hold them provide particularly strong evidence for large declines in participation from the first to the second rounds of traditional runoffs. From 1994 to 2008, turnout declined in 113 of 116 regularly scheduled federal primary runoffs, and the average decline was about 35% - see FairVote's data on these runoffs.
Perhaps the reason why large declines in turnout seem to be the norm is because we've lowered the thresholds (and standards) for many other elections. If you only have one runoff every so often, your turnout will be down. In the 2008 NC statewide runoff for Democratic candidate for Labor Commissioner, turnout was very low in those areas where that was the only race - and those areas voted for candidate Mary Fant Donnen. In other areas where there were more than one race in the runoff, turnout was higher - lots higher. And in those counties, the higher turnout gave more votes to candidate John Brooks. Had more counties had more runoff elections, the results could have been very different. Perhaps the key to greater voter turnout in runoff elections is to have more runoffs, not less?
Bottom line: you can't make a majority of voters like one of the candidates running. But you can enact IRV to make sure you always elect the candidate who has majority support over his or her top opponent in the final round and to ensure the defeat of the candidate whom a majority of voters see as their last choice - a result that plurality voting makes all too possible.
As we have proven the only sure-fire way to make sure that you elect a candidate who has majority support over his or her top opponent is to have a traditional runoff election. IRV does not ensure that the IRV winner has a true majority. IRV can even award a win to someone who didn't get a single additional vote.

And when you compare the additional extra added cost of conducting IRV elections vs. the cost of a general election and rarely needed runoffs (or even the primary elections FairVote is trying to get rid of), you have to wonder why anyone would be trying to push this costly, complex and confusing election system as an electoral reform? That is perhaps why Election Integrity advocates call Rob Richie's organization "FairyTale Vote"!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's now official: Rob Richie and FairVote have no shame!

On his astro-turf IRV Factcheck blog, FairVote's Rob Richie attacked NC Verified Voting advocate Joyce McCloy, claiming she was behind the wave of anger directed at Richie after Richie published a tribute to election integrity advocate John Gideon claiming that Gideon supported IRV.

Richie is getting to be a one-trick pony: he can't help but work something about IRV into everything he writes! But his half-assed denial of dragging Gideon's name into the whole IRV debate was also an attack on an election integrity advocate who not only does the Daily Voting News but also got an election integrity award named after John Gideon himself!

To say that some people were pissed is an understatement. You all know how I feel. Brad Friedman of BradBlog wrote to Richie and demanded an apology:

Subject: Shame on you, Rob. You owe Joyce a BIG apology
From: Brad Friedman
Date: 5/29/2010 5:46 PM

Rob Richie -

I have done my best, publicly, to stay out of the public and well-funded Internet and lobbyist-whisper-campaign jihad that you and Fair Vote have waged on those who have an honest, and very reasonable, opposition to IRV and the serious dangers it poses to transparent, citizen-overseeable democracy. Vigorous, fair minded, public debate of differing opinions is, after all, at the heart of democracy.

But now you've simply, and outrageously, gone too far. You owe an immediate and sincere apology to Joyce McCloy for the insinuations in this article and in its inappropriate headline.

You compare McCloy's advocacy for transparent, citizen-overseeable elections to "McCarthyism", which is obnoxious enough, but then you go on to write (seemingly without any self-awareness or irony whatsoever):

I suspect it was her effort in the wake of verified voting champion John Gideon's death last year to spread the allegation among his friends that I was seeking to use his death to promote instant runoff voting.

You "suspect" that, do you? Do you have any such evidence of same? Or are you just hoping to use *McCarthyite* tactics to defame her, in hopes of supporting your own cause, in a public space?

For the record, there were MANY within the Election Integrity Movement (no, not the "election security movement" as FairVote's chair recently, embarrassingly, described it -- revealing an extraordinary lack of understanding and/or concern for EI), who decried what seemed to be your opportunistic invocation of John Gideon's name after his death.

For the record, no, he did NOT support IRV, nor was he 'neutral' on the subject, contrary to your blog post above. He opposed it, at least as made clear to me during many of my daily conversations with him. If he did not express that publicly, (don't know if he put his position on public record or not), he certainly expressed many times to me his concerns about it, and the idea that it was an insane notion, given our current electoral system mess.

Nonetheless, I am unaware of evidence to suggest, as you do, that it was McCloy's "effort in the wake of verified voting champion John Gideon's death last year to spread the allegation among his friends that I was seeking to use his death to promote instant runoff voting." But yet you use to suggest as much.

That is appalling, Rob. Simply appalling.

Your shameless attack(s) against McCloy -- and the similar, recent, embarrassing attack against the EI movement as a whole by your chairman -- would suggest that the positive values of IRV in elections, whatever they may be, are not enough to support your advocacy for them. Instead, you feel it necessary to attack a fellow (if unpaid, unlike yourself) democracy advocate -- one who recently won an award in John Gideon's name, btw(!) -- simply because she has the temerity to public disagree with your position, and proffer a case to support her reasons for doing so.

Shame on you, Rob. Or, as Joseph Welch famously said, since you were kind enough to (ironically enough) quote it: "I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. ... You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Please retract, correct, apologize for what you've done here, and then reign in FairVote's reckless, embarrassing chair person for the obnoxious, disrespectful and ill-informed blog comments recently posted as well.

And, after you do the above, I hope you will inform yourself and your chair person, about what the Election Integrity Movement is, and what "transparency" and citizen oversight actually mean. No, contrary to your post above, it has nothing -- nothing -- to do with your well-funded group's praise-worthy support of a "right to voice in the Constitution".

Once again: Shame on you, Rob. I hope you show the sense of decency to set things right this time.

Brad Friedman

Creator/Publisher The BRAD BLOG,
How did Rob Richie respond to Brad's message to him? Well, he changed the original attack posting against Joyce McCloy which was sort of an apology to Joyce. Here is the archived original attack post on Joyce, and here is the edited version which is at the original link.

It wasn't much of an apology. For Brad, that was the last straw. Here is Brad's next note to Rob:


Subject: That's it? Seriously?
From: Brad Friedman
Date: 6/01/2010 3:53 PM

That's it? That your
transparent correction and retraction and apology for comparing a fellow democracy advocate to McCarthy? You simply made your post disappear?

It's apparent that not only does FairVote not give a damn about transparent, citizen-overseeable elections, it also doesn't give a damn about transparency advocacy for so-called Instant Runoff Voting!

Little surprise then that real Election Integrity heroes like Joyce McCloy and so many others are fighting so hard against IRV as well as the deceptive propagandizing that FairVote has been doing in favor of it.

And while you delete the post and offer an "apology" for an "inaccuracy" of one aspect of your item, you didn't see fit to have the decency to apology for comparing her to Joseph McCarthy even as you, yourself, used nothing less than a McCarthy-esque tactic to disparage her and her efforts in the very same breath.

Since you determined to delete your original offensive post, refuse to allow comments at your so-called "IRV Fact Check" blog, and refused as well to post my reply to it, as requested, I'm CC'ing Joyce here and asking her to post my comment in full at any of her blogs, to any of her mailing lists with or without your original offensive post as she she's fit. (Joyce, please feel free to include the above text as well).

Repeated dishonest and deceptive tactics that I have witnessed over the years by both you and FairVote have now officially equaled the dishonesty and deceptive tactics I've seen by voting machine companies such as Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia. For that, you and your group have officially earned a spot in the Democracy Hall of Shame. While I have endeavored to work with you over the years, even where you and I did not always see eye-to-eye, you have finally crossed the line. If you and FairVote were looking for a war with the Election Integrity community, don't be surprised if you've finally brought one on. Folks like Joyce do not give up in their fight for transparent, overseeable democracy, and neither do I…


Brad Friedman
Publisher/Editor, The BRAD BLOG


Brad Friedman is the publisher of , The Green News Report, a 2010 Project Censored Award Recipient. a winner of Politics Site of the Day, winner of 2004 and 2005 Kofax awards, a 2008 weblog awards finalist, a March 2010 Buzzflash Wings of Justice honoree, and a member of the Velvet Revolution Election Protection Strike Force.
Welcome to the fight! I've been at war with FairVote and other groups for years over how IRV threatens election integrity. I've had FairVote employees and fellow travelers call me a "liar" for years. I've had election officials in my own party who get flown around the country by FairVote to promote IRV call me a "Republican" when I took on 4 of them and defeated IRV in Raleigh back in 2007. For the record, I am a very partisan Democrat when not dealing with verified voting matters.

I had the husband of the leader of the local League of Women Voters get in my face and almost punch me out for the work I've done to defeat IRV in my own state. The original IRV pilot bill calls for up to 10 municipalities and counties to try it between 2007 and 2009 (inclusive). In 2007, 7 communities considered it but only 2 used it, and only one contest needed IRV to determine a winner beyond the 1st column. That IRV tabulation was botched by the state's best county Board of Election because they were too vested in making IRV look " easy as 1-2-3!"

In 2008 - no communities used it because it was too risky to use - a violation of state and federal election laws and regulations. But IRV advocates took advantage of a low-turnout statewide primary runoff to call for and get an 2 years of the original IRV extension pilot. But that allowed election integrity advocates to include requirements that the IRV pilot follow election laws and regulations - something not included in the original pilot program legislation.

In 2009, IRV advocates really pushed Cary NC to participate in the pilot again, but Cary turned them down cold. It was then that election integrity advocates learned, while there were legal requirements for hearings if communities were going to consider switching legal and tested election methods, there was no such requirement for communities considering election pilots.

In the 2009 legislative session, election integrity advocates were able to amend the IRV pilot program to include a requirement for a public hearing before a community could participate in the pilot - a big win for election integrity advocates, because so far IRV has been a less than transparent program. And in 2009 - only one community used IRV needlessly because they had first-round winners in every contest.

I am used to it now, but it still amazes me that Rob Richie and the "Knights of the IRV Table" still feel the need to attack election integrity activists like Joyce McCloy - it must mean we are turning the tables on them! Although they are getting a few more communities to consider using IRV, they aren't going down the referendum route and going directly to municipal boards, in some cases traveling with elected officials and hanging out in their motel rooms to better indoctrinate them on the many virtues of IRV. This helps keep them from doing research that might show them that IRV isn't as popular as they claim it is or does all they say it will do.

But some municipal officials are taking note of the work of election integrity advocates when they speak out against IRV at public hearings. The fact is that the more IRV is talked about at public hearings, and the more a community has a chance to find out about it from BOTH sides, the less likely a community will use it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Nothing is sacred to Rob Richie when it comes to IRV!

In Rob Richie's latest screed against Joyce McCloy where he compares her to Joe McCarthy, he brings up the memory of verified voting advocate John Gideon by claiming that Joyce McCloy was behind an alleged attack on Rob Richie after he "memorialized" election integrity activist John Gideon after his death last April.

It's hard to pick a "lowlight" from her litany of attacks on us and other backers of instant runoff voting, but I suspect it was her effort in the wake of verified voting champion John Gideon's death last year to spread the allegation among his friends that I was seeking to use his death to promote instant runoff voting. I received tearful communications asking me how I could do this, given his neutrality on the subject when in fact my blog post featuring a tribute to him was entirely focused on a subject he and I regularly had discussed at our conferences he attended and by email: public ownership of voting equipment.

What exactly was Richie's tribute to John Gideon? Here is the part that dealt with IRV that so many verified voting activists had a problem with:

With such limited competition, it's easy for these companies to shake money out of state governments via unscrupulous means: They can stop producing, and stop servicing, certain models artificially early, compelling states to buy new ones. They have reason to meet just the bare-bones requirements of contracts and limit the plasticity of their hardware so that they can force upgrades on states that want to reform their voting systems — making it difficult to implement innovative voting methods like instant runoff voting (IRV). (The firms also may have reason to stymie IRV because more elections means more business.)
You later posted a note on April 29, 2009:

(Note added by author on April 29: Although FairVote promotes a range of electoral reforms, we are particularly well-known for our advocacy of ranked voting systems, particularly instant runoff voting. I've heard that some readers thought I was capitalizing on this tragedy to suggest that John Gideon was an ally on instant runoff voting

To be clear, John liked the idea of IRV, but believed that advocates should not push for implementation before certified equipment was ready to implement it. But this article is not about IRV. It's about another subject that John and I had several email exchanges about -- kicking private vendors out of our elections and having a publicly owned process. We both liked how Oklahoma did that years ago with its optical can equipment and New York with its equipment.

I apologize to anyone offended by this piece. I knew John a little from his coming to conferences we organized and from several email exchanges, but I did not know him in the way that so many leaders in the election integrity struggle did. I do think he might have liked the idea of a Gideon Initiative to pursue publicly owned election administration, but at this point I'm only raising the idea as part of my effort to salute his dedication.

OK Rob - in own words, you wanted to make it clear that John Gideon liked IRV. Really - you claim that John Gideon liked IRV? Let's read John Gideon's own words on IRV from The Daily Voting News on the Voters Unite website:

'Daily Voting News' For November 27 and 28, 2008

I have been asked often about my position on Instant Runoff Voting [also known as Ranked Coice Voting]. My answer is always that I just haven’t formed an opinion on the basics of IRV.

Rob - you still want to claim that John Gideon "liked" IRV when he stated that he hadn't formed an opinion on the basics of IRV? Or that he was neutral on IRV when in his own words he hadn't formed an opinion on the basics of IRV?

When are you going to retract your statements about Joyce and make an apology?

I do, however, have a problem with the fact that those who are avid supporters of IRV quite often favor IRV over voting system issues.

Gee Rob - who do you think John had that problem with? Here's a hint: look in a mirror!

They tend to be willing to turn a blind-eye to the use of voting systems that I would never support because there are no voting systems that actually support IRV that are federally certified.

Rob - he was writing about you and the rest of the gang at FairVote and all the other groups you claim that support IRV when you support the use of voting systems that place election integrity in jeopardy because they aren't at bare minimum federally certified. Is that pain enough for you?

Two west-coast counties, Pierce in WA and San Francisco in CA, used Sequoia systems that were a mix and match of certified parts and tested parts that were never tested and certified to be used together.

Kinda like the use of IRV on both op-scan and DRE touchscreen voting systems that were never tested and certified to be used with IRV...

Officials in Minnesota are now talking about IRV for the future. When asked about a second or third count election officials said they would hand-count those ballots but officials who have done IRV say that would be a “huge nightmare”. One of the two west coast counties is even now thinking of going back to the voters to ask that IRV voting no longer be used. We agree with this position but only until there is a system that can actually count the ballots and not be a “huge nightmare”.

In other words, John Gideon did not support IRV until there is an election system that can actually count the ballots and not be a "huge nightmare". So far, every system that has been used to count IRV is either a huge nightmare and/or can't be verified easily.

And as if all that wasn't bad enough, did you know who took over doing the "Voting News" after John died? Joyce McCloy did.

Do you know who got the "John Gideon Electronic Voting Integrity Award" this year? Joyce McCloy did.

So how dare you try and smear Joyce McCloy by comparing her to Joseph McCarthy by claiming that she spread an allegation that you were using John Gideon's death to promote IRV!

Rob - the fact is that you use every opportunity to promote IRV, even when google allows people to see that you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. To some you claim that IRV helps 3rd parties, and to others you claim it doesn't support 3rd parties.

Everyone sees you "pimping" IRV, and we roll our eyes in amazement. I read your tribute to John and I felt you were promoting IRV even before Joyce and I and others talked about it.

Rob - have you no shame?