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Friday, November 05, 2004

Instant Runoff Voting Down for the Count
I previously provided a summary of Instant Runoff Voting, and quoted the following from a fairvote.org FAQ on Instant Runoff Voting:

Does IRV save money? Yes. Traditional two-round, "delayed" runoffs are common around the country. IRV halves the cost of those elections because it determines a majority winner in a single election. Before adopting IRV, for example, San Francisco spent as much as $2 million on each election in its delayed runoff....

Where is IRV used? Many places. Ireland uses IRV to elects its president, Australia to elect its House of Representatives, London to elect its mayor, San Francisco to elect its major city offices such as mayor....

Well, IRV ran into a glitch in, of all places, San Francisco in Tuesday's election:

This city's experiment with ranked-choice voting, which appeared to create few problems Election Day, turned problematic Wednesday when an undetermined glitch delayed the tabulation of ballots and kept candidates on edge.

Elections officials announced that the vote-counting machines were not correctly combining voting data that would allow them to tabulate the second and third choices that voters selected in seven supervisorial contests....

The problem, which officials said had not yet been identified, marred what had been a generally smooth Election Day with the new system, which allows voters to rank three candidates in each supervisorial and citywide race in order of preference. The new method does away with the need for runoff elections....

San Francisco's ranked-choice voting system, also known as instant-runoff voting, survived more than two years of controversies and preparation but generally caused few problems at the polling places Tuesday.

David Binder, who has long conducted polling for local candidates and ballot measures, said ranked-choice voting lived up to predictions that it would cause candidates to form alliances rather than attacking each other.

Though there was some negative campaigning, "it would have been much worse without ranked-choice voting," he said.

Tuesday night, election officials provided the first-choice results for the seven supervisorial races on the ballots. In two of those races, a candidate gained far more than a majority and was assured of victory. In one other, the leading candidate had garnered a bit more than 50 percent of the vote and was likely to end up the winner once second-and third-choice votes are tabulated.

But in the other five contests, the ranked-choice system will be needed to determine a winner. That was especially true in the District 5 supervisorial race, where 22 candidates vied for an open seat....

It was unclear Wednesday when final results will be released. Arntz said the company that modified vote tabulating machines to use the new system, Election Systems and Software, was working to resolve the problem....

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