Joins 'Internet Voting' and 'Vote-by-Mail' schemes as the latest bad ideas poised to further cripple American democracy
PLUS: IRV count fails in Aspen's first instant runoff election...
By Brad Friedman on 6/2/2009, 1:38pm PT  

[Updated with a response from L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan. See end of item for his complete email in response to this article.]

Gautum Dutta, of the Democratic-leaning Asian American Action Fund blog notes a recent L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting which "discussed a study on the cost of special elections and Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)" [emphasis added]...

While speaking to the Board of Supervisors, Registrar Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan testified how low voter turnout and high costs have plagued our special elections. Logan urged the County to seriously consider anything that would reduce voter fatigue and save money.

In the past two years alone, $9.3 million of taxpayer dollars have been spent on special elections. Of that amount, over $3.6 million dollars were spent on special runoff elections (counting the upcoming July 14 runoff in CA’s 32nd Congressional District).

If IRV had been used instead of special runoff elections, taxpayers could have saved up to $3.6 million.

Note to Messrs. Dutta and Logan: Taxpayers could save even more money if we simply allow you two to just decide for us who gets elected!

As Logan, chief election official of the nation's largest voting jurisdiction (larger than 43 states combined see Logan's correction to this at end of article) has had more than enough problems with the current voting system which can't even add one plus one plus one accurately, such that it is virtually impossible for anybody to verify the accuracy of results, the last thing this county needs is to complicate the math even further by confusing matters with IRV's complicate scheme of ranked choice voting where voters are asked to select a first and second place choices, etc.

For that matter, unless, and until, we can simplify our election procedures such that any and all citizens are able to oversee and verify the accuracy of their election results, no jurisdiction in this country should employ schemes like IRV, no matter how well-meaning supporters of it may be in hoping to allow a broader range of candidates and parties to have a shot at winning an election.

Along with the emerging nightmares of Internet Voting and Vote-by-Mail, IRV is yet another one of the horrible wack-a-mole schemes being endlessly advanced by advocates and profiteers who put winning elections and making money off them, over the idea of transparent, verifiable, secure democracy and self-governance expressed of the people, by the people and for the people.

Addendum... From last Friday's Aspen Daily News:

More than three weeks after Aspen’s first-ever instant-runoff election, city officials announced an error in the tabulation of the final-round vote totals for mayor. ... The error did not surface in either of the council tallies or in any other rounds of the mayoral instant runoff voting tally, officials said. ... Accuracy tests were publicly conducted before the election but they did not catch the problem that ultimately occurred.

Clarification & UPDATE, 8:52pm PT:... In describing IRV as being "advanced by advocates and profiteers", I was not implying that all advocates of the scheme are profiteers, as it seems some have misunderstood me to suggest. Many advocate for it because they sincerely believe it will bring needed electoral reform.

Also, very quickly after publishing the report above, I was contacted via email by Registrar Logan, who suggests that Dutta mischaracterized the position he expressed at the recent L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting. He notes in his response that he has "not advocated for changes to the electoral process solely to save money", and offers quite a bit more clarification to his position, as detailed in a report [PDF] written "in response to a motion directing my office to outline possible approaches to issues of soaring election costs, voter fatigue and voter participation --- and to specifically address Instant Runoff Voting as an option.

I'd have posted Logan's response sooner today, but for a nasty harddrive drive crash I've had to wrestle with all afternoon/night. So my apologies to him for the delay. His response is much appreciated, and follows below in its entirety...

Brad ---

I was forwarded a copy of your post today regarding Instant Runoff Voting and wanted to take you up on your past offers to correct or clarify.

Your post states that I "urged the County to seriously consider anything that would reduce voter fatigue and save money." Not so. Perhaps your post is based on Mr. Dutta's account of the report and associated brief summary at last week's Board of Supervisors' meeting --- and not on the report itself. If so, I urge you to read the actual report that was submitted to the Board. Note that the report was in response to a motion directing my office to outline possible approaches to issues of soaring election costs, voter fatigue and voter participation --- and to specifically address Instant Runoff Voting as an option (reference Board Motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, March 31, 2009).

The written report [PDF] does not make recommendations nor does it request action by the Board of Supervisors. It is not an endorsement of Instant Runoff Voting or of any other proposal. It is an informational response to the Board's inquiry. Note that prior to outlining (in very broad terms) various options, the report states "the…options are preliminary considerations void of any comprehensive regulatory and legal analysis, research, or feasibility study." All things that would be reasonably considered as part of any formal or further policy review or discussion made by the Board of Supervisors. With regard to the other options listed and responsive to the Motion, the report clearly states "(a)s with RV (ranked voting), further consideration of any of these options would warrant more comprehensive analysis and recommendation."

The report indicates that a cost savings is not assured using ranked voting alone absent other policy measures or regulatory amendments. It also points out the need for additional data collection and analysis with regard to residual voting in a ranked voting system (see page 14 of the report). The report makes no reference to internet voting. As for the figures cited in your post regarding costs of special vacancy elections, again, I urge you to review the actual report. As you may know, the one immediate outcome of the report was a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas calling on the state to reimburse counties for the actual costs of conducting special vacancy elections.

The conclusion of the report focuses on the need to address the future voting systems needs in Los Angeles County --- a goal I believe you share. The conclusion also speaks to the need for that dialogue and process to be open to a broad range of stakeholders; a process I am committed to employing.

On a slightly different and lighter note, while Los Angeles County has more registered voters than 36 states and had higher voter turnout in 2008 than in all but eight states, I don't believe the County is "larger than 43 states combined". And, please be assured I have not advocated for changes to the electoral process solely to save money.

Please don't confuse or link the information provided in the report to advocacy for a ranked choice voting system. They are necessarily separate; yet both appropriate to the broader dialogue and discussion associated with the future needs of the County.


-- Dean
Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
Los Angeles County

The BRAD BLOG covers your electoral system fiercely and independently, like no other media outlet in the nation. Please support our work with a donation to help us keep going (Snail mail, more options here). If you like, we'll send you some great, award-winning election integrity documentary films in return! Details right here...
Share article...