Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MASS IRV koolaid drinker claims to know that IRV was a success here in NC!

Folks - there are so many people out there who claim to know that IRV worked really well in NC who were nowhere near Cary when they cast or counted votes. Here's a blog from a guy in Mass - - who claims to know how well IRV worked from videos created by FairVote and the exit poll managed by Bob hall from DemocracyNC and done by people ranging from real volunteers to the former IRV America Director from FairVote who admitted faking a southern accent when she interviewed voters (I believe it's her voice and/or arm in the video).

So I responded to his first posting and he replied to that. I tried to respond, but was unable to do so. Check out and see what he wrote in response to me and see my response he wouldn't let me post to his blog.

Greg - my statements are not misleading or false. There was no objective measure of IRV success in North Carolina that was established before the elections. That is one reason why the Raleigh City Council didn't want to pilot IRV - there was concern that we wouldn't know if it worked or not.

And actually my truthful and hard-hitting arguments against IRV have been very successful where both sides of the issue have been presented to decision makers before they took their vote. In Raleigh, where the pro-IRV presenters outnumbered me 4 to 1 (and greater odds if you counted the pounds), no one in the Raleigh City Council wanted to pilot IRV after I got done. When both sides were heard, IRV went down in flames.

So pro-IRV people started to sneak around and talk to elected officials behind closed doors for weeks and months before they took a vote. So of course they voted to use IRV - they only heard one set of facts. That is how they got Cary and Hendersonville to go along.

Greg, you seem like an intelligent fellow even though you have obviously drunk the IRV kool-aid. It two educated and intelligent fellows like us can't even agree on how to count IRV votes and if IRV was a success, how do you think that the less educated and less literate voters in my state or other states will be able understand IRV? They won't understand it and if they don't understand it they won't bother to rank candidates if they do show up, or they won't show up at all. IRV is already turning into a math literacy test for college educated voters - it will be even worse for the voters who will show up to the polling places and not know they were expected to rank their choices in the first place.

The program didn't replace the runoff - it was a one-time experiment. Cary will have a traditional elections in 2009 unless they vote to pilot IRV again in 2009. Since Julie Robison, who originally supported IRV, not longer supports IRV, I doubt they will be able to get the votes to pilot it again.

And I never mentioned that the program was extended due to its success. Please do not put words in my mouth. IRV supporters claimed it was a success. Legislators never had the chance to fully debate how IRV worked in 2007. But it should be mentioned that even before the Cary Town Council voted to participate in the pilot, the NC State Board of Election knew in March 2007 that IRV would not be used in the 2008 election because it posed risks. What those risks are, they never said. And unfortunately for NC voters, most of our legislators were too incurious to ask what those risks were. The amendment to extend the pilot was submitted at the last minute, with no time to fully study the 2007 pilot.

Now you are deliberately trying to confuse people. You can't say that IRV ensures a majority winner of the non-exhausted ballots because if there are ANY non-exhausted ballots you still have to count them. You can't declare a winner if you still have votes to count!

You are wrong with your assertion that absentee and no-shows are not counted when determining the majority. Either IRV determines a majority winner by a number that is determined by the first column votes (a number which doesn't change because it has to include all the votes cast for the top two in the first column) or you are manufacturing a majority out of a plurality win by not counting all the ballots cast.

You can't compare people who don't cast second or third round choices to people who don't show up for a traditional runoff because in that race you don't carry forward the votes from the first election. And you are wrong in stating that claiming that ballots exhausted after the first or second columns aren't counted in the denominator when determining the majority - that is how it's done in San Francisco. You can not not use 3022 as a denominator in determining the majority because you are carrying the first column votes forward. If you kept the votes for the top two and changed the denominator, you really are advocating ENRON-style vote counting methods. What would you have the denominator be at the end of the second and third column tabulations?

The majority in the Cary race was based on the 3022 ballots cast in that race. A non-exhausted ballot is one that can still be counted. By the time Don Frantz got his 1401 votes, all the votes had been counted - there were no more that could be counted for him. But he still didn't have the 50% plus one vote (or 1512 votes) out of 3022 in order for him to win.

Going by your thought process, had there been no winner at the end of the first round, and only one total second or third column vote cast for either one of the two remaining candidates, you would still have a winner with only one more vote cast. You are essentially taking a plurality and manufacturing it into a preferential majority.

But one thing that I don't get about IRV supporters is that most won't admit that IRV does not always ensure a majority winner in all elections. Some do - and they did that in the legislation to use IRV for student elections at NCSU. Their IRV bill can be found at

§103. Requirements for Enactment of Preferential Balloting.
All statutes or other acts enacting preferential balloting for an elective contest shall indicate one of the following preferential balloting methodologies to be used:
(a) “IRV Majority” is §201 Instant Run-off Voting conducted with a §301 Full Preference Ballot. It is applicable to single winner races requiring majority election.

§301. Full Preference Ballot.
On any elective contest using a Full Preference Ballot, to cast a legal ballot the voter must rank all choices presented on the ballot. If a write-in allowed in the contest and used by the voter, the voter must rank it in addition to the choices presented on the ballot.

Only a full preference ballot ensures that in IRV/STV allocation, every ballot has a place to be allocated in every round. Otherwise, ballots may become exhausted and unallocated, potentially resulting in no majority or Quota in the final round.

They do require a full preference ballot - meaning that you have to rank every candidate in every race for any of your votes to be counted. In real adult elections in the USA, we don't force you to vote a full ballot in order for your votes to be counted. But at NCSU they take the total number of ballots submitted and that becomes the denominator from which a majority must be received in order to declare a winner using this method.

§201. Allocation Under Instant Run-off Voting.
Under Instant Run-off Voting, each vote shall be initially allocated to the highest preference on the voter’s legal ballot. If no candidate or option has votes equal to or greater than a majority of legal ballots, votes will be reallocated as further provided by this section. Reallocation shall proceed by determining the candidate or option with the least amount of votes as currently allocated, and then reallocating each of that candidate’s or option’s votes to the next remaining preference on each ballot that was a source of votes. Ties for least amount of votes shall be broken as provided by §211. Reallocation shall be repeated until a candidate or option has votes equal to at least a majority of legal ballots in the contest, and is thereby declared winner. No vote shall be allocated to a candidate or option previously eliminated.

But at NCSU they take the total number of ballots submitted and that becomes the denominator from which a majority must be received in order to declare a winner using this method. They don't keep changing the denominator as your statement would suggest is done in ballots where there are no second or third column votes to be tallied.

§221. Occurrence of Traditional Run-off Election under IRV.
For §201 Instant Run-off Voting in contests requiring a majority of votes to be elected, a traditional run-off election must be ordered when, due to exhaustion of preference ballots, no candidate receives a majority of votes in the final allocation round. Such run-off shall be conducted with the last two (2) candidates or options remaining in the allocation round, and shall use a non-preference ballot.

When IRV is used with a partial preference ballot, preference exhaustion may occur, necessitating an additional election to obtain a majority. This cannot occur with a full preference ballot except in the unusual case of write-in candidates reaching the final allocation round.

But where you don't require full preference balloting, you see it right there- preference exhaustion can occur. It did occur in Cary - 1401 votes is not the 50% plus one vote (or 1512 votes) of the 3022 votes cast and counted in the first round of the Cary District B race. At least at NCSU, the students admit that IRV won't always ensure a majority win by the time all the ballots are exhausted. it's a shame the adults who pushed IRV couldn't do that in Cary.

For those voters who show up at the polling places on election day and didn't know beforehand they were supposed to rank their choices, what is left for them to do? Going by the less than professionally conducted NC exit polls, 25% of Cary voters and 33% of Hendersonville voters had this problem. In San Francisco, about a third of the voters showed up not knowing they were expected to rank their choices in 2004 - it was almost HALF the votes the next year.

What would you have those voters do? Either donkey vote for candidates they know nothing about just to keep them from having to come back for the runoff when they might possibly have taken the time to learn about the remaining candidates, or just not count ANY of their votes? Either choice hardly seems democratic.

I have been curious about that - the Secretary who signed that letter wasn't even the secretary when IRV was used in Cary. She has no experience with IRV to know about the costs and transparency. The Chair has been pushing IRV for a long time, with some of his travels sponsored by FairVote (according to a statement he made at a legislative hearing in another state). He has made many less than accurate statements about the benefits of IRV, and has contradicted himself many times. It's just too bad that most members of the Fourth Estate haven't taken the time to check the facts before they coble up a story out of a press release.

Debra Goldberg, the secretary of the Wake BOE during the IRV pilot, totally backs up my claims. She was one of only 4 county election administrators in one county out of NC's 100 counties to have any direct experience tabulating IRV ballots. Her op-ed piece titled "Instant Runoff Voting is no solution, says election official who was there" can be found here:

There is nothing misleading about what I have posted. You weren’t even here to know what happened. There is no proof that the NC Legislature has any knowledge that IRV saved money, boosted turnout or was a success. There was no debate on those topics - they were asked at the very end of the legislative session to extend the pilot. And they only did so after first amending the extension by requiring that goals, standards and criteria for the implementation and evaluation of the pilot be developed consistent with NC election law - because there was A LOT of concern that the first pilot wasn't done accurately and/or lawfully. The new law states that if IRV can't be done consistent with our tough election laws - it won't be done.

And if there are some NC voters and editorial boards see IRV that way, it's not because they really know anything about what actually happened. They just happened to be hustled by the very well-funded IRV advocacy groups that spent tens of thousands of money and staff time into pushing IRV in NC with no verifiable way to determine if it worked or not. Taking a press release and turning it into a story or an op-ed piece, or publishing a ghost-written op-ed piece doesn't prove that IRV works.

Op-ed from Asheville: IRV "is no solution, says election official who was there"

Finally - here is an op-ed piece from former Wake BOE member Debra Goldberg - who was on the BOE when Cary piloted IRV last year.

Thanks to the publishers and editors of the Asheville Citizen-Times for publishing something from an elections administrator with a verified voting point of view, and not the usual IRV "love letters".

The only way to really make sure that IRV is done right is not to cut the corners that were cut from the get-go with IRV. That is why the General Assembly decided to pass an IRV pilot extension without giving supporters the blank-check they have always wanted. Legislators required two things to extend the pilot: one - to require communities to approve participating in the pilot, and to require development of a voter and candidate education plan; and two - to require the development of goals, standards and criteria for implementation and evaluation of IRV that are consistent with NC election laws. It remains to be seen if IRV can be piloted according to the law, and should it be used even if it can be piloted according to the law.

A full debate on election reforms should take place before we make any changes to our election systems. We had such a full debate after the Carteret County fiasco, and the result was some new elections laws held up as a model across the nation and that got NC a number one rating on ensuring accurate vote counting by the non-profit Brennan Center. We need one of those debates and full oversight on our elections - they are too important to "wing it" with risky voting methods like IRV.

Chris Telesca

Instant Runoff Voting is no solution, says election official who was there

Debra Goldberg • published August 27, 2008 12:15 am

I was a Board of Elections official in Wake County during the Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) pilot in Cary in October 2007. As one of only three officials in North Carolina to have administered an IRV runoff, I can tell you that John R. Hudson Jr.’s guest commentary, “Don’t be misled; N.C. has one of the best election systems in the country,” (AC-T, Aug. 14), contained incorrect claims about instant runoff voting in North Carolina and improperly discredited statements made by voting integrity activist Joyce McCloy.

Hudson states that the voting machines handled IRV well “in the two elections in which it was used.” Untrue — no machines have been used for counting instant runoff votes in North Carolina and cannot be used because no certified software exists that can count IRV votes. Furthermore, the Hendersonville election did not trigger an instant runoff. In Cary, in which one race triggered an instant runoff, the IRV votes were counted by hand. N.C. Board of Elections Voting Systems Manager Keith Long verified in writing that, “The EAC has not approved any software. There is no software available for the ES&S equipment to count IRV voting!” ES&S is the only voting machine manufacturer certified in North Carolina.

Many problems

The Cary election was only about 3,000 votes, yet the process was labor-intensive, difficult to monitor and observe and resulted in incorrect vote counts. The discrepancies were reconciled using hand recounting, done by staff members after the official count. These errors were not, as Hudson states, “easily spotted and quickly corrected.” I can’t imagine the onerous amount of time, resources, space and personnel that might be needed were we to hold an IRV election of any significant size, nor the numerous and potentially irreconcilable discrepancies a large IRV runoff would likely cause.

Hudson states, “North Carolina is known nationwide as one of the foremost election systems in the country” and attributes this to “being innovative, using cutting-edge equipment and thoroughly training our election staff and boards…”. I agree that N.C. is exemplary in many ways as it pertains to voting. I disagree as to the reasons. Cutting-edge equipment does not make for the best elections and creates opportunities for compromising voting integrity. This concern led Joyce McCloy and many other citizen activists to lobby the legislature to pass our voter integrity laws. As a result, N.C. now requires that every vote have a paper trail, in clear recognition of the fallibility and vulnerability of “cutting- edge equipment” used in voting.

Strong evidence refutes claims such as Hudson’s that “Voters in the two counties who had IRV in their city elections were overwhelmingly happy with it and had no trouble understanding it.” In the Cary IRV pilot, I can tell you that many voters left their backup choices blank, and that many other voters wrote in backup candidates with names such as “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck.” This is direct evidence that many voters did not understand or accept IRV. Candidates involved in the IRV pilot in Cary have voiced doubts about the process.

Integrity of the process

Although many people, including some election officials, seem eager to embrace IRV, and some have been zealously vocal in their support of IRV, it is important to recognize that these same people often ignore and misconstrue the facts which are most important to those of us who are concerned, above all, with the integrity of each and every vote and with the confidence of all voters that their votes are counted fairly and accurately. It is important, when assessing the IRV issue to recognize these key points:

1. We cannot reasonably count IRV until we have certified software. Hand counting, as we must do now, consumes many man-hours and resources, and is error-prone.

2. The push to computerize IRV will surely result in pressure to weaken our exemplary certification requirements and standards.

3. There is no proof that IRV saves money. The costs for necessary machinery and software, increased voter assistance and voter education and other associated costs would, likely, negate cost savings from elimination of runoffs.

4. IRV violates a basic principle when dealing with masses of people — KISS — Keep It Simple …

We should resist IRV until straightforward, verifiable, reliable, auditable, certified systems are available to count IRV votes. Only then should we perform pilots while making sure that they are well documented and carefully evaluated. To responsibly address the issue of costly runoffs, let’s use our North Carolina “innovation” to come up with safe, trustworthy alternatives to IRV. North Carolina voters deserve the most accurate and reliable voting system available, without compromise, for any reason.

Debra D. Goldberg is a former member of the Wake County Board of Elections. She lives in Raleigh--

Saturday, August 2, 2008

NC Voters - please sign this new petition!

Make sure to check out and sign my Petition to Support Election Integrity by waiting until we have legal procedures to pilot IRV in NC! at

Actual Petition Language:

We the undersigned oppose any attempts by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, County Boards of Election, and any IRV advocacy groups to promote IRV and/or select communities to pilot IRV until goals, standards and criteria consistent with general election law are developed for implementation and evaluation of the IRV pilot program.