October 29, 2009

You want insane election results? Just try IRV!

Posted in Elections, IRV, voting tagged , , , at 10:23 pm by bluebanshee

One of the many dubious claims about Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is that it will produce a consensus winner.  Not always true, as has been found in studies of both Aspen, CO and Burlington, VT.  The candidate with the most first and second place support does not always win.  This is because it is possible to hurt your preferred candidate by turning out too many supporters in his behalf.  How is this possible?  Just take a look at this explanatory video to see how this could happen (and has indeed happened in real elections in various places across the U.S.)

Why is this more democratic?  Why would voters prefer the kind of result described in this video to a straightforward up-or-down vote?

June 7, 2009

Minneapolis Takes the ‘Instant’ Out of IRV

Posted in Elections, ES&S, IRV, paper ballots, voting, voting machines tagged , , , at 5:56 pm by bluebanshee

Those who have been watching the long (seven months and counting!) slog toward a final resolution the Coleman-Franken election contest will not be amazed to discover that the same slow methodical approach will be applied to Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in Minneapolis. There won’t be any cutting corners for Minnesotans, unlike what was done elsewhere (Cary, NC and Aspen, CO spring to mind here!). http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/05/21/irv_voting/ Read the rest of this entry »

May 17, 2009

IRV in Aspen — a tale of spoiled ballots, voter confusion and corners cut

Posted in Elections, IRV tagged , , at 7:28 pm by bluebanshee

It makes you scratch your head and wonder whether backers of IRV are living in a parallel universe  when proponents of IRV like Rob Richie of FairVote.org make  statements like this one

A successful IRV election was held in Aspen, Colorado last week (the city’s first IRV election), in which incumbent mayor Mick Ireland defeated three challengers in a contest with a record-breaking turnout; 45% versus the usual 37-38%. Analysis of the election by TrueBallot showed that every single vote cast for mayor was valid, meaning 100% of those who opted to vote for mayor had their vote count. There were more voter errors in the novel use of IRV to elect two at-large city council seats, but still less than 1% of those at the polls.

And then you read the account of the same election in the local Aspen newspaper that tells a completely different story.  http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20090505/NEWS/905059933/1077&ParentProfile=1058

Aspen chose a mayor and two City Council members Tuesday in an election that left plenty of voters confused at the polls and equally mystified as the ballots were tallied in televised proceedings late into the evening.The city’s first use of instant runoff voting, which eliminated the need for a June runoff election, got mixed reviews at the polls. And the whirlwind runoffs after three hours of tallying votes left plenty of observers at a loss to explain exactly how the results were tabulated… Read the rest of this entry »

Cary NC tries IRV, then says ‘no more’

Posted in Elections, IRV, IRV in Cary NC tagged , , at 2:09 pm by bluebanshee

Cary NC is one of a handful of jurisdictions across the US that have experimented with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).  It has often been touted by IRV proponents a a huge success story.

But Cary NC is no longer an IRV jurisdiction and IRV supporters just don’t talk about it any more — because the Cary City Council voted recently against continuing with the pilot program that had seen put in place for the 2007 election cycle.

So just what is IRV?  How does it differ from 50%+1 elections used in the majority of jurisdictions in the US?  Wikipedia describes IRV as

a voting system used for single-winner elections, in which voters rank candidates in an order of preference. If no candidate is the first preference of a majority of voters, the candidate with the fewest number of first preference rankings is eliminated and that candidate’s ballots are redistributed at full value to the remaining candidates according to the next ranking on each ballot. This process is repeated until one candidate obtains a majority of votes among candidates not eliminated.

If it sounds complicated it is because IRV adds complexity  to the voting process and non-transparency to the counting process.  Many voters come into the voting  booth with only one strong preference and don’t want any of the other candidates to have a chance.  IRV forces these voters to  vote for their preferred candidate only and eliminate participation in later counting rounds — or try to vote strategically for the other candidates in  such a way as to ensure their preferred candidate’s victory.  Not necessarily intuitive or easy since the way the second and third round votes count is dependent on the elimination of some candidates in the first round, which will not be apparent at the time the voter is marking his ballot.  Voting then  becomes a guessing game.    In a traditional runoff election the voter at least knows which candidates are still in the mix and can cast a ballot accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »

June 29, 2008

New book applies game theory to vote counting methods

Posted in election audits, Election reform, Elections, game theory + voting methods, Gaming the Vote, IRV, politics, voting tagged , , , , , , , at 11:58 am by bluebanshee

In his new book, Gaming the Vote, author William Poundstone applies an area of mathematics called game theory to various alternatives to the current winner-takes-all method of counting the vote. This provides a useful perspective that is far different from the rhetorical chest-pounding about “increased democracy”, or “more choices for the voter” that usually accompanies discussions of IRV, STV or other variants of ranked choice voting.

In a review of Gaming the Vote, Berylium Sphere writes on Technocrat http://technocrat.net/d/2008/6/28/44675

…the book talks about the nature, the history, and especially the malfunctions of alternatives such as instant runoff voting, approval voting, Condorcet voting and Borda voting. It covers the (often incandescent) theoretical debates about whether the problems of each are significant in real life, in enough detail to be accurate but while remaining clear to a non-specialist. He explains the theorem that all ranking-based voting systems have paradoxes (the Arrow Impossibility Theorem). Most of the alternatives, except for approval voting and the system Poundstone saves for the end as the best choice, involve letting the voter rank all the candidates in order of preference. Read the rest of this entry »

November 24, 2007

IRV Fiasco in Frisco

Posted in Elections, IRV, paper ballots, politics, San Francisco IRV election, voting machines tagged , , , , at 8:53 am by bluebanshee

This month’s IRV election in San Francisco had a  lo…onnngg count with the final results not being announced within 24 hours of the close of polls as is customary in U.S. elections but delayed for weeks.

There is lots of fingerpointing about the delayed election results, with some blaming CA SOS Bowen and others saying that it is the fault of the AutoMark ballot marking device that is used by disabled voters. Both of these analyses contain just enough of a shred of truth that they are wholeheartedly embraced by segments of the public. But neither explanation considers the complete situation while at the same time overlooking salient facts. The situation is much more complex.

The story begins with Debra Bowen’s election as California Secretary of State in November 06 and her determination to study the election system in her state and document its strengths and weaknesses. To that end, SOS Bowen decided to conduct a Top to Bottom (T2B) Review of the equipment and software used in her state. She contracted with University of California at Berkeley to do the study. There were four key areas studied: Software Code review, Documentation review Red Team penetration study and Accessibility review. Further information about the results of the T2B Review can be found at: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vsr.htm

Read the rest of this entry »