Wednesday, March 4, 2009

2nd IRV election in Burlington VT does not result in a majority winner!

Got a posting on another news group from Anthony Lorenzo, Florida IRV advocate who appears to post damn near everything issued by FairVote.

FairVote is the nation's leading pusher for IRV propaganda. Here is a link to the FairVote release in the Huffington Post:

Burlington’s Has Second Highly Successful Instant Runoff Voting Election

This year, with so many viable choices, no candidate won an outright majority of more than 50% of first choices – indeed, plurality winner Kurt Wright won only a third of the initial vote. The election went to an instant runoff tally. In the instant runoff, the candidates with the fewest votes were dropped, including independent Dan Smith and Democrat Andy Montroll, and the field was narrowed to two finalists. In the final instant runoff round, every ballot counted as a single vote for whichever of the two finalists, Progressive mayor Bob Kiss or Republican Kurt Wright, was ranked higher on each ballot. By 8:25 p.m. the IRV tally was completed and Kiss had been re-elected, defeating Wright in the final round by 51.5% to 48.5%.
Notice that the comments for that posting are closed - apparently Rob Richie doesn't want to have people post opposing viewpoints about IRV - or that his claims are false.

The press release claims that the second IRV election in Burlington VT was a success and that incumbent mayor Bob Kiss had a majority win over Republican Kurt Wright 51.5% to 48.5%.

Is that true? Notice that the total number of votes is not listed anywhere in the article. I had to go to the Burlington Free Press to get the numbers for the first round and the final round:


Initial Round:

* Kurt Wright (R) 2952 - 32%
* Bob Kiss (P) 2585 - 28%
* Andy Montroll (D) 2065 - 23%
* Dan Smith (I) 1307 - 14%

So that is a total of 8909 votes

But in Burlington you need a majority to win and after two rounds of IRV, it was Kiss on top with 51.5 percent to Wright's 48.5.

Final Vote:

* Bob Kiss (P) 4313 - 51.5%
* Kurt Wright (R) 4061 - 48.5%

Bob Kiss had 4313 - or 48.41% of the original 8909, not 51.5%.
Kurt Wright had 4061 - or 45.58% of the original 8909, not 48.5%.

That is because the total number of votes for these two candidates in this round is 8374 - or 535 less than the original 8909 cast in the first round. That is why an IRV win is not a true majority win in all but one or two cases because you never really get a true majority of the first round votes cast.

Here is what happened - according to the Free Press:

According to an unofficial tally, Wright led after the first round of vote counting by 252 votes. After the second-choice votes of the fourth and fifth place finishers — independent Dan Smith and James Simpson of the Green Party — were redistributed, Wright still led by 213.

Wright lost when the 2,554 second-choice votes of third-place finisher Democrat Andy Montroll’s went to Kiss by a 2-1 margin.
How does Andy Montroll get 2,554 second-choice votes when he only got 2065 in the first round?

“I’ve heard so many people say this instant runoff system is flawed,” said John Pijanowski, a Wright supporter, after consoling Wright with a hug. “I hope he challenges this all the way to the highest court.”
Yes - I agree - it seems very flawed. And it does appear to advantage the incumbents because in rounds beyond the first, you might not know anything about the other challengers, so you might vote for the incumbent for no reason other than they already got the job. That is an advantage of incumbency.

On the other hand, had there been a separate runoff election and some campaigning between the top-two candidates, who knows who would have come out on top? While people who preferred Montrol as their first pick chose Kiss 2 to 1 over Wright in their 2nd or 3rd choices, we don't know the actual number of votes, or if they would have really picked Kiss over Wright if the race was only between them. That is precisely why RRO prefers traditional runoff elections OVER preferential balloting like RCV or IRV.

Even some colleges that vote on computers that don't count any of their votes the way we do in the real world admit that you have to take the total number of votes cast in the first round of an IRV race and use that as the threshold - you can't do what Burlington, Cary and so many others have done and have a gradually reducing threshold for your "preferential majority". Even the students at NCSU recognize that you might not have a true majority after all the ballots are exhausted - so you would need to have a second or runoff election. As we should have done in Cary and they should have done in Burlington.

Calling something a majority win when it is not a true majority is called many things - false advertising and fraud are two things that come to mind.

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