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IRV Debacle

Nov
5
2004

This is how screwy San Francisco’s instant run-off voting really is: it’s so screwy you can’t even build a good contest around it. Well, wait. You can build a good contest. You just have to constantly revise the winner’s list.
Because of the various changes in the voting machine and tabulation software, Usual Suspects Alex Clemens has now announced five – that’s one, two, three, four, five – different winners to his contest to name the first-cut vote tallies received by winners. And the way things are going, he might have a few more awards to give away before the day is done.


Clemens had a great idea: show folks just how slim the winning totals are so everyone might – maybe, if we’re lucky – realize just how silly a system IRV really is. It hasn’t brought more or more varied representation to city government, which is the theory under which this system was first popularized by The New America Foundation’s Ted Halstead and Michael Lind in their book, The Radical Center. In every election district save one, incumbents — the same folks who had the job and won it under traditional rules — won again. And in District 5, where there was an open seat, the leader (as of this writing) was campaign manager to out-going supervisor Matt Gonzalez. So much for diversity. IRV has made a simple idea – vote for the guy you want to win – more complicated for reasons that remain thoroughly theoretical.
And that was before anyone started counting the votes. Which is taking a long, long time. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the folks down at the Department of Elections didn’t count on such a high voter turn-out. So the software in their machines was fixed to count only so many votes, fewer than were actually cast. This is so dumb, you know I’m not making it up. The fact that software geniuses had to be flown in from Nebraska to fix the problem probably tells you all you really need to know. So I’m going to let that one stand on its own.
Instead I’ll just point out that good old-fashioned bianary yes-or-no seems to work really, really well even in the “wrong” hands.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:54 AM | Permalink

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