Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Buyer's remorse for Minneaopolis Ranked Choice Voting?

Read an article on a report on the the first Ranked-Choice Voting experience in Minneapolis, held in 2009.

The continuing cost of RCV: $244,000

Barring a change in available technologies, Minneapolis municipal elections could cost almost $250,000 extra every year that ranked-choice voting is in place.
These are costs over and above regular election costs - just specific to their form of IRV.

Last year, the first time the city used RCV, there were about $365,000 in expenses specific to the new voting system, according to an Elections Department study received and filed by the City Council’s Committee of the Whole. That included one-time costs such as vast voter education and a post-election wrap-up survey commissioned to St. Cloud State University researchers.
And they produced a much better post election study of the costs of IRV than we got from either the Wake or Henderson County BOE, or from the State BOE - who all seem to think that one single IRV election will always cost less than a traditional election and any needed runoffs.

But some of those voter education costs are projected to stick around — at least for the near future — since a refresher could be necessary when RCV returns in almost four years. Combined with other on-going costs, such as paying for ballots to be counted by hand, the projected ongoing costs of RCV total about $242,000.
That's right - RCV means continuing costs for voter education and for hand counting as long as there are many different types of IRV/RCV that could be counted on machines or systems are not fully tested and certified for use with IRV/RCV.

Technology could be the savior here. There are machines that can count RCV ballots; however, none are certified yet by the state, and that certification isn’t expected unless more cities switch to RCV. And even then, while the city would save a projected $140,000 in RCV costs by being able to eliminate the hand count, the cost of technology is unknown.
Why would any more cities take the risk of switching to IRV/RCV knowing that they are going to be increasing their costs until and unless more cities also vote to increase their costs for the short term? I thought IRV/RCV was supposed to cost less?

At least one council member, President Barb Johnson (4th Ward), was miffed by the study. She noted that RCV’s supporters had promoted the system by saying it would draw out more voters and cost less than a traditional primary-plus-general election system. Considering the study’s results and last year’s very low voter turnout, she said, “all of these things did not happen in our city.”
Minneapolis had the lowest voter turnout in 100 years! So much for the claim that IRV draws out more voters!

“It is disturbing to me that we’re talking about an extra quarter of a million dollars for a system that was supposed to decrease our costs,” Johnson said.
Thanks for waking up President Johnson! A Cary Town Councilor had the same wake up call in 2007 after she watched the IRV tabulation and saw how complex and confusing it was - and couldn't even be done correctly according to written procedures. Yet because so much of the 2007 IRV pilot program in NC was done under the table and off the books, we may never know exactly how IRV compared cost-wise to traditional elections and rarely needed runoffs.

Find the report at http://bit.ly/d5q2Y1.
Here is exactly the sort of cost report that many verified voting advocates in NC have been asking to see from ANY community or county (or even the State Board of Elections) on their experiences with IRV/RCV. But of course we are not getting this sort of detail even from our own State BOE - whose staff all seem to be in love with IRV and feel it's the coming thing.

Now I wonder if the citizens of St. Paul MN (who passed RCV on the same date as Minneapolis took part in their first RCV elction) will find out about this study and take steps to stop RCV dead in its tracks before they make the same mistakes as Minneapolis did?

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