Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Board to Explore Implementing 'Instant Run-off' Elections



                             Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

                                                             L.A. County Board of Supervisors, 2nd District



March 31, 2009                                                                                                                                         Contact:    Aurelio Rojas



Board Approves Ridley-Thomas’ Request to Explore the Possibility

of Implementing Cost-Effective ‘Instant Run-off’ Elections


According the County’s of Los Angeles’ Registrar Recorders’ Office, last

Tuesday’s special election was estimated to cost the County $2.2 million


LOS ANGELES COUNTY – The Board today approved Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ request to direct the County’s Registrar-Recorder’s Office to report back on the costs associated with conducting special elections to fill vacant partisan and non-partisan, local government, legislative and congressional seats over the past decade.


The recent special election for the 26th District Senate seat vacated by the election of Mark Ridley-Thomas to the Board of Supervisors was the fifth election in little more than a year, in which County residents have been asked to participate.  Yet another election involving the top finishers in each party will be needed to decide the senate winner.


“This many elections are needlessly costing taxpayers millions of dollars and contributing to `voter fatigue,’” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “This results in lower voter turnout, which is antithetical to representative government and is ultimately corrosive to a vibrant participatory, democracy.”


According to the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder, just over six percent or 23,631 of the 390,409 registered voters in the senate district participated in the special election, which cost taxpayers $2.2 million. The Supervisor believes an “instant run-off voting system is a reasonable, cost-effective solution” to voter fatigue.


The report will include options, including the feasibility of moving to instant runoff voting in partisan and non-partisan special elections, available to the board and recommendations for legislative proposals to reduce election costs and voter fatigue.


Instant runoff voting combines primary and runoff elections into one by having voters list from one to three their preferences for each office that is up for election.  If a voter’s first ranked candidate is eliminated, his or her vote goes to the voter’s second candidate as the runoff choice. The runoff rankings are used to elect a majority winner (50 percent, plus one) in a single election.


“The recent election results should give proponents of Instant Run-off Voting additional ammunition to make the case for election reform,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We may have an opportunity to bring the technology currently available to us to address the issues of election fatigue, cost and low voter turnout in a manner that reinforces democratic participation.”


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NC Voter said...

,b>Instant Runoff Voting does not produce a majority winner most of the time:,/b.

Saturday, March 7, 2009 No Majority Winner in Instant Runoff Voting election in Burlington Vermont Mayoral Contest

December 7, 2008 2 out of 3 Pierce County RCV "winners" don't have a true majority

Consistent Majority Failure in San Francisco's Instant Runoff Voting Elections. A
review of the results for San Francisco Ranked Choice Voting elections shows that IRV elects a plurality winner: These results are remarkably consistent. Out of 20 RCV elections that have been held since the referendum establishing it passed, when IRV was used, it elected a plurality winner


IRV has proven to be a very flawed election form,

The recent Burlington Vermont mayoral election exhibited paradoxes where IRV likely thwarted the will of the voters.

See March 12th, 2009Voting Paradoxes and Perverse Outcomes: Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski Lays Out A Case Against Instant Runoff Voting

Also see Burlington Instant Runoff Election riddled with pathologies The instant runoff election in Burlington,Vermont suffered from nearly every pathology in the book! Non monotonicity, the spoiler effect, the no show effect, and majority failure.


RRichie said...

The arguments of NC Voter (Joyce McCloy) do not hold up to scrutiny.

For instance, Burlington's mayoral race this year was a clear success for IRV. A recount showed that 99.99% of voters in the mayor's race cast a valid ballot, with the same high rate of using second choice rankings in the lowest income and highest income wards.

McCloy prefers a system that would have elected the candidate who was in third place once the field was reduced to three. Such a candidate of course would lose with plurality voting and with runoff elections. The fact that IRV didn't elect such a candidate is not a surprise.

McCloy also suggests that "majority" means winning a majority of the initial vote when all the candidates were in the running. But what's key in runoffs is which of the top two candidate has majority support once the field is reduced to that number. IRV elects this candidate. The so-called "pathologies" are more pronounced with traditional two-round runoffs than with IRV.

IRV has been used for thousands of major elections for high office. It is recommended by Robert's Rules of Order for elections where not all the voters can gather in person and it is used in countless non-governmental elections, including many of our biggest private associations and universities like UCLA. See:


NC Voter said...

Please follow the links, to actual studies and real life news articles, rather than talking points.

Also see Roberts Rules - which does not endorse or recommend IRV.

Read Roberts Rules for yourself.

Don't get a pig in a poke, do research and look at IRV in real life.

See www.instantrunoffvoting.us for studies on cost, majority failure, incentivizing complex technology, IRV in real life.

If your goal is to help third parties, then you should look at voting methods that do work, or at increasing ballot access, or campaign finance.

Also beware of anyone who has a habit of trying to speak for someone else, its a dishonest tactic.

Bruce G said...

Rob Ritchie talks about Joyce McCloy's arguments not holding up to scrutiny. His own are even more fallacious.

Ritchie says "McCloy prefers a system that would have elected the candidate who was in third place once the field was reduced to three. Such a candidate of course would lose with plurality voting and with runoff elections."

But the candidate who would win with plurality voting, Kurt Wright, was also eliminated by IRV, so plurality voting should not be cited by Ritchie.

And the candidate who was elected by IRV, Bob Kiss, would have lost by any of a large number of other voting systems, not just "the system McCloy prefers."

The fact is, that "the candidate who was in third place once the field was reduced to three" was actually the candidate preferred by more voters to the winner; the only reason this did not come out was that the supporters of the other candidate of the three would have settled for this "third place" candidate rather than the elected one.

In fact, if a bit over 500 of those "supporters of the other candidate of the three" had stayed home and not voted, so that he had missed getting into the final round of the counting, they would have gotten a candidate that they had preferred.

Do you really want to adopt such a pathologically flawed system?

CIRV said...

As a supporter of IRV, I have to just laugh at these statements and twisting of facts by this NC Voter person and this Bruce person.

I just hate hearing from these major party hacks who simply want to keep the same election systems that defend/protect the two party oligarchy and status quo. Their views, quite frankly, make me want to barf.

In 99% of the elections, both choices (Democrat and Republican) both suck. IRV is a system that allows more choices to participate, and so the establishment supporting political hacks who are entrenched in and believe in that power structure think everything is just fine. Here is a great example.

Of course there is not a majority of the number of initial ballots cast. The majority is contingent upon who has an opinion of the candidates remaining. For instance, if i like a Green first, Libertarian second, and i hate the democrat and republican, i vote 1-Green, 2-Libertarian, 3-independent and i don't rank a fourth choice. In current results in plurality voting, it is likely neither of my first two choices would make it to the final round (unless i live in Burlington or Cincinnati, two cities where third parties actually win), so i have decided not to weigh in on that round of voting by the way i cast my ballot, much as i would not bother showing up for the runoff (other than to write in "none of the above." Either is the same statement. Yet we don't say the winner of a runoff is a non-majority winner because less people show up. That is exactly the (empty) logic McCloy tries to use here, some phenomenal oppositional spin, if i do say so myself that probably fools a few.

IRV accomplishes a majority in one efficient election, and also encourages a sincerity in voting that no other system-especially insincere voting-prone approval voting and range voting-offers. The reason this occurs is because there is almost no scenario in which your second choice can harm your first choice, so there is no incentive to vote strategically and bury someone you like a little bit. You just rank them after your favorite, second favorite, third favorite, and so on. It is very simple and takes the gaming out of the system that benefits well-connected and networked groups (democrats and republicans) and ensures a level, less riggable system of casting and counting votes.

If you are tired of the status quo, of a lack of diversity, of negative campaign attacks that avoid discussion of the issues, of democrats AND republicans, and of non-majority winners, IRV isn't the only reform we need, but it is a great first step.

Fairvote is a trusted, respected, and honest source and everyone who is effective has a few "haters" out there. At Fairvote's last convention, every aspect of election reform was considered. I only know because I received a scholarship to go and learn for the first time about audits, felon voting rights, DC voting rights for Congress, Universal Voter Registration, and many other issues. They are far from a single issue organization, though they are one of only a couple organizations that support IRV and other ranked choice voting systems (like Single Transferrable Voting, proportional representation).

Any scientist with any sense would tell McCloy that the first time a population uses a new voting system doesn't produce data that proves anything. It will take a couple decades to produce data on what the effects of IRV will be here in the US, and only nations that have used it for 50+ years (like Ireland, Australia) would produce data worth studying. McCloy presents NONE of that data, very wisely I might add, as i bet it doesn't support her empty hypothesis here.

Apparently, McCloy slept through science class and doesn't quite get controlled experiments or what the concept means. If she did, she would assume that it would take at least 4-10 elections with IRV in place to say "this is the effect of the system" and not write off any effects as "the population is still getting familiar with the change." Obviously, people have figured out how to use it well enough without erring on their ballots, as that is backed up by hard data from these cities using IRV for the first, second, or third time (most for the first). But McCloy wisely didn't make that argument (that IRV is complicated).

I hope someday McCloy puts more energy into creating reform and less into stifling progress. At least through these exchanges, her errors aren't as glaring.

RRichie said...

Robert's Rules of Order most certainly does recommend instant runoff voting for elections where repeated voting without eliminating candidates is not possible. That's why hundreds of organizations, including some of our nation's largest associations, use it. See a link to Robert's Rules and a list of associations here:

info said...

In Australia, there are two dominant parties thanks to IRV. In Ireland, there is one dominant party (with IRV).

See Australian Politics - the “Disadvantages of the Preferential [IRV] System”… promotes a two-party system to the detriment of minor parties and independents. http://australianpolitics.com/elections/features/preferential.shtml

San Francisco has had IRV for over 4 years now, and here's how its working:

July 3, 08 San Francisco Grand Jury Report: poll workers and voters do not understand instant runoff, voting machines not yet certified….

Then there was that Municipal election in San Francisco in 2007. See electionline’s report:

Ranked-Choice Voting and Flawed Ballots Tax San Francisco’s Election By Kat Zambon electionline.org Nov 08, 2007 …”Voters also questioned the value of ranked-choice voting…There are a lot of people who only mark one [candidate] or the same person three times..”I don’t want to vote for a second one, I want this one.”

Robert’s Rules of Order do not actually recommend IRV. It says that “preferential voting”
gives fairer results than plurality voting if it is considered impractical to used repeated balloting,which is what Roberts Rules actually recommend. Robert’s Rules states that “there are many forms of preferential voting” and describes the Single Transfer Vote (STV) “IRV-like” method “by way of illustration”. Robert’s Rules require repeat balloting when no candidate gains a
majority of all ballots cast. Then Robert’s Rules discusses some of the problems of this specific
method: it “deprives” voters of the opportunity to base later choices on the results of earlier
rounds (which is provided with top-two runoff) and can fail to find a “compromise winner”.

"third parties are almost totally unsuccessful in Australian IRV seats (1 seat out of 564) but independents have won 33 seats (5%). This is similar to the USA, where Independents also outnumber third-party members in statehouses and federal government seats. In the USA, there are zero third party congressmen but (after the 2006 elections) two independents out of the 553 total (namely Lieberman & Sanders). Sanders replaces Jeffords who also was independent." http://rangevoting.org/AustralianPol.html

IN closing, there are many election methods that could reduce the spoiler effect and also help third parties gain strenghth, but IRV is not one.

Another method that is proven to strengthen third parties is Fusion Voting, which does not require specialized voting machines, can work with hand counted paper ballots, even with lever machines like in New York, and which helps voters vote based on how a candidate actually represents certain issues. Fusion allowed the Populist party to come into power in NC as in other states.

IRV is a well intended reform but makes matters worse instead of better.