Saturday, June 09, 2007

Auditor's Items for the June 11 County Council Study Session

At the May 30, 2007 meeting of the Blue Ribbon Review Panel on Ranked Choice Voting, Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy outlined a series of "Items" which she intends to discuss with the County Council on June 11. McCarthy's list of items start on page 35 of the presentation on May 30.

The session will be at 11 am in the County Council Chambers, 930 Tacoma Avenue South, County-City Building, Room 1046. If you plan on attending, I suggest you get there early since parking and security can take some time.

Below are comments on her Items.

Item #1: Amendment #3 intended to make ballot access easy for all candidates. Unfortunately, we put a reference to state law into the charter and state law is onerous for minor party candidates and independents. Panel member Ruth Bennett has suggested a charter amendment which would remedy this situation. It is a good amendment. The County Council should put the amendment on the ballot.

Item #2: The charter is silent on the number of rankings each voter can mark. This was done to give the Auditor flexibility in implementing ranked choice voting. Current technology with Pierce County's current elections vendor only allows for three rankings. Council should adopt regulations to allow for up to three rankings for the 2008 election. Council should also encourage the Auditor to push the vendor to enhance the software for the 2010 election so that voters can rank all of the candidates.

Item #3: This really does not matter since results won't change and the difference in the computer time between the two alternatives is under 5 seconds.

Item #4: No comment.

Item #5: The Charter does not stipulate when the RCV algorithm should be applied. It would be bad public policy to put this into the Charter.

Having said that, the Council should adopt regulations on the release schedule for preliminary RCV results. At this point, I am in favor release of preliminary results for the RCV algorithm each time the Auditor releases the preliminary results on the other elections except on election night. On election night, the Auditor should release the first, second and third choices for each RCV election.

Item #6: The Auditor's suggestion is fine, but the risk of it being important is close to zero. However, the Auditor's suggestion will not cost any money and does no harm.

Item #7: Good idea. Another things which is better as a regulation rather than being in the charter.

Item #8: Given that the rest of the state is going towards all mail elections, Pierce County should be consistent.

Item #9: With gasoline prices above $3 per gallon, having to pay $0.58 in postage to mail in your ballot does not seem unreasonable expense as compared to driving to the polling booth. However, we are likely to get higher voter participation with this expenditure.

Item #10: San Francisco's director of elections John Arntz told the panel to focus on educating voters on how to fill out the ballot. The heart of these efforts should be the ballot design and the voter's pamphlet. We hope the focus of the Auditor's voter education will be to ensure these are done in an effective way.

Item #11: We will write separately on Panel member Bennett's suggested Charter Amendment.

Separately, John Arntz marvelled at how wonderful it must be to have so much time to prepare for holding a ranked choice election. He had only six months and Pierce County has about two years. By taking our time, we should be able to run a great election.



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