Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ranked Choice Voting Research

At one of the recent Pierce County Charter Review Commission meetings, several assertions were made about Ranked Choice Voting that deserved further research.

San Francisco County uses Ranked Choice Voting. They use optically scanned ballots that are counted by machine. The model number on the hardware is 4C-400. I believe Pierce County uses optically scanned ballots that are counted by the same hardware. San Francisco has some additional software to count the Ranked Choice votes. Pierce County would have to buy the additional software to implement Ranked Choice Voting.

Previous to using Ranked Choice Voting, San Francisco put all of the candidates on the general election ballot and, if no one won a majority of the votes in the general election, an additional run-off election was held in December. With the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting, the December run-off election has been eliminated. Thus the costs of running San Francisco's elections in 2005 were lower than the costs of running them in 2003. The savings were over $2 million.

Seperately, it was noted in our discussions that both Australia and Ireland use Ranked Choice Voting to elect their legislative bodies. These two countries use Ranked Choice Voting to elect partisan officials. In Australia, the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Nationals and other political parties contest elections. In Ireland, the Finna Fail, the Finna Gael, the Democratic Left and other political parties contest run candidates.


At 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ranked Choice Voting is coming. It is a majoritarian election system. It functions like the traditional "runoff" multiple ballot - another majoritarian system. I just participated in the latter system of election.

I couldn't help but to imagine how an efficient ranking system would have effected the outcome? I've concluded that the result would have produced the same winner.

Last Saturday, Washington State Democrats convened to elect a new State Chairperson.

The election featured three candidates; Jean Brooks, Dwight Pelz and Laura Ruderman.

The electors consisted of 164 State Committee Officers, (the author of this post included).

On the first ballot the tabulation was,

·         Brooks 13
·         Ruderman 69
·         Pelz 82
·         One abstention.

Pelz came in exactly one vote short of the majority necessary to gain election.  As stated in the rules, the candidate with the least votes (Brooks) was dropped to leave a runoff of the remaining two.

The second ballot was collected and their tabulation resulted,

·         Ruderman 70
·         Pelz 95 – to win.

Let’s say this election was used in with the rules of an RCV method.

Electors would have ranked the three candidates in order of preference.

In tabulating the ballots, Brooks would have received 13 first choices, Ruderman 69 first choices and Pelz 82 first choices.  (And just like a traditional runoff, if Pelz had reached the 83-vote majority – he would have won the election.)

With RCV, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated – just like the traditional runoff.  But instead of collecting another ballot from electors, vote counters would have transfered Brooks supporter’s second ranked choices between the remaining two candidates. 

Thus the term “Instant Runoff” as multiple balloting is unnecessary. 

In the traditional runoff, all of Pelz voters stood by him in the second round.  Ruderman only picked up the lone abstention.  Pelz had gained 13 votes to propel him to the majority – the exact number of votes Brooks received in the first round.  It’s a safe assumption that all of Brooks supporters would have placed Pelz as a second choice on a ranked ballot. 

Effectively, it was the Brooks supporters who deemed the majority winner in the traditional runoff – exactly what RCV critics claim as a deficiency.

And if the election was a one round plurality vote, Pelz would have also won - except without a majority. The majority of Democratic delegates were a coalition of Pelz / Brooks supporters.

Ranked Choice Voting is reliable and saves time.

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's important to note that "Ranked Choice Voting" is a broad term that can refer to a few different voting methods, of which Instant Runoff Voting is only one. They all use ballots where voters rank candidates in order of preference, but the differences lie in how those preferences are used to determine a winner. IRV simulates a series of runoff elections, eliminating the candidate with the fewest #1 votes at each step, but other methods look at all the preferences at once in an attempt to find a compromise candidate that satisfies the most preferences, even if she isn't the first choice of most voters.

It's therefore also important to distinguish between RCV critics--people who are opposed to any ranked voting system--and IRV critics, who are opposed to one particular implementation (and may favor a different ranked voting method instead).

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stand corrected.

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

13 Brooks supporters compromised for Pelz. They could have abstained. Plus, Pelz got 95 votes in the end. That's a strong showing and a very democratic outcome.

RCV - the IRV version,is really gaining ground around the nation. Burlington has its first RCV election for mayor on March 7. It's an open seat, and hotly contested. I've been told there's a nice story in the Burlington Free Press on a RCV demonstration election that shows a 3-year-old girl standing in line ready to cast her ballot -- not so complicated!

At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the person who made the three minute statement that turned into 20 with all the questions, I think we have lots of convincing to do with the charter committee. First Burt Talcott blurted out an insult (isn't he like 89 years old?) that I was talking from a script, which was indeed not the case. Then other not-to-be-named members challenged this statement maker like I was an elections expert, with some former office holders asking pointed questions that kind of told you that as long as they are in charge, there is a snowball's chance in hell they will recommend changing the charter to even put it up for a November election. All of it made me determined to work even harder to force the issue in some way, whether at county level or elsewhere. Keep working it Commissioner Haughton!


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