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Winston Salem, NC, United States, 2008/06/28 - Last Tuesday North Carolina set a record low for voter turnout in the Labor Commissioner runoff. Activists are saying that the state should adopt instant runoff voting as a way to save money. The cure may be worse than the ill - InstantRunoffVoting.us.
On Wed July 2, 1 pm, North Carolina's House Election Law Committee will hear an amendment in SB 1263 to extend the Instant runoff experiment.
The problem is that the only way to have another instant runoff experiment is to gut our hard fought for and nationally lauded verified voting law. Our state would have to use uncertified software and cut corners on election audits and election night reporting. There is no software or firmware developed to tabulate IRV, none tested or federally approved for our voting machines. Since IRV is being sold as a "cost saver" you know that no money will be spent to educate our nearly 6 million voters about this drastic change in our elections. Many will be disenfranchised.
If you care about whether your vote counts, then ask the members of the House Election Law not to experiment with Instant runoff again. One experiment is enough. Our votes are precious.
There are other simpler less expensive ways to eliminate costly runoff elections. We can stop having statewide runoffs - most states don't have them, or appoint the Labor Commissioner as do 45 other states, or adjust the thresholds for these elections. Please email House Election Law Members. (info at bottom of page).
Another IRV experiment would cause wide damage to NC's verified voting law:
It would require the use of uncertified software or uncertified voting systems. This could result in permanent allowance for uncertified software because of "emergencies" like IRV that set a precedence to using uncertified systems/software.
It would decrease/void vendor responsibility & accountability - how can the vendor be responsible for a system that uses untested/uncertified software?
The state would exempt 2nd and 3rd choices on ballots from being counted at the polling place as currently required for regular ballots by NC law, putting those choices at risk of tampering after being hauled away from the polling places and put into storage. There are no election night reports/poll tapes for these results. Raw vote data was never reported by the Wake or Henderson County BoEs for the 2007 experiment.
Auditing will either become extremely difficult, or officials will exempt IRV elections from auditing, or meager measures will make audits meaningless. Kathy Dopp explains how IRV complicates auditing in her report about 17 Flaws in IRV.
Recounts will be far more laborious - each round of counting must be correct before you can "recount" the next.
Provisional voters would be at risk - Wake Co did not count provisionals until after the IRV rounds had been counted. Somehow they "added" the provisionals back in? (Oct 12, 2007 Recount widens Frantz lead in Cary). This does not make sense because each individual ballot must be considered to see which 2nd and 3rd choices will be counted.
IRV would encourage the use of touchscreens, as the NC State Board of Elections has already created a "workaround" with uncertified software for our touch screens that likely violates our law.
Precinct based optical scan would be discouraged, as evidenced this May in Pierce County WA's failure to certify precinct optical scanners but allowance for uncertified DRE/touchscreens and central count (county office) optical scanners.
We aren't ready for an experiment. Wake County miscounted just 3,000 ballots in the Cary IRV experiment, and still has trouble counting votes the plain old vanilla way.
May 6 how Wake County double counted 15,000 ballots and Mecklenburg double counted 2,000, (May 8, 2008 Mecklenburg, Wake find vote flaws News 14 Carolina, NC) and Onslow County "omitted" 4,000 ballots. (May 9, 2008 Thousands of votes missed in Tuesday tallies Jacksonville Daily News, NC)
How can we handle more complex elections and the tremendous instability that IRV introduces to our elections system?
There is a established precedent where IRV adoption in the US has forced the "emergency" approval of uncertified IRV software in the United States:
1. San Francisco used uncertified software and after 3 years was notified that the algorithm was flawed. A study by Greg Dennis reveals unintended consequences that IRV caused in San Francisco's IRV elections and the affect of overvoted contests on next contests on ballot.
2. The Secretary of State of Washington granted "emergency" permission in May 2008 for Pierce County to use uncertified software on Seqouia machines, even though flaws were found in the WinEDS (central tabulating system). Touchscreens were certified on an emergency basis, but not the precinct optical scanners. All optical scan ballots will be hauled off to the county office to be tabulated.
3. Burlington Vermont uses some sort of uncertified software to tabulate the results from their Diebold machines.