Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Comments on Instant Runoff Voting by Richard Anderson-Connolly

I will be unable to attend the CRC meeting this week and thus would like to respond to the criticisms made against IRV/RCV last week.

The auditor’s presentation made essentially two arguments. The first is that IRV will add complexity to her job at a time when other changes are occurring. This is doubtless true. Learning a new system always entails a bit of stress during the early stages. On the other hand, the auditor will surely learn the IRV software quickly enough and adapt to the new system. And more than compensating for whatever difficulty during adjustment will be the worked saved by elimination of the even-year primary for county races.

The second argument was that IRV will cost more, largely due to voter education and additional printing for the longer ballots. Paralleling the argument regarding complexity, this argument only works by ignoring the ongoing savings from eliminating the primary. The savings in San Francisco are in the millions. Under questioning the auditor admitted that there will be savings for Pierce County by eliminating the primary. The auditor failed to include these savings in her PowerPoint demonstration but yet included the cost that San Francisco paid for software even though free software is available for Pierce County (and is currently being used for RCV elections in Burlington, VT and Cambridge, MA). She thus omitted a relevant savings and included an irrelevant cost.

Commissioner Pearsall-Stipek invoked the RCW to claim that the county can not eliminate the primary for the prosecuting attorney. Yet no specific code was mentioned. In fact, contrary to her intimation, RCW 29A.52.111 requires a partisan primary except where a county home rule charter provides otherwise. And to reject a partisan primary is not merely to accept a non-partisan primary. Analogously the opposite of a black car is not a white car. Instead of replacing the adjective (partisan) we can replace the noun (primary).

The opponents of IRV offer many reasons why it won’t work. I suspect, however, that their real fear is that it will work all too well: The voters will like it, the technology will handle it, more voices will participate in the elections, winners will have majorities, and it will save money.

Pierce County, let’s not be afraid of success.

Richard Anderson-Connolly


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