Will Hendersonville voters' instant runoff votes in the November election count or even be counted? Does Hendersonville's IRV counting method rob some voters of their say in the runoff? How will Hendersonville North Carolina tally the upcoming instant runoff voting election for Mayor and City Council? Will voters understand how votes are sorted, allocated and reallocated? Will voters help or hurt their favorite candidate by ranking choices? The answers are discouraging if you care about every vote counting, about election integrity, transparency and about fairness to voters.
I sent an email to Henderson County's Board of Elections to find out: what votes will be counted and reported, which IRV votes will be counted, and how will the IRV votes be counted and reported? Henderson BoE Director Beverly Cunningham promptly provided these answers below in 2 emails on October 16, see lower down the page.
The answer -not all Instant runoff votes get counted. It is a fact that some or all 2nd and 3rd choice votes cast will be kept secret and hidden from the public and never counted. Just because second and third round votes are not needed or utilized in determining an outcome does not mean that they were not cast by a voter. It is a bad practice for government to keep any expression by voters secret.
If there is a winner in the first round of voting, then officials will not count or even report the voters 2nd and 3rd choice votes. If there is not a winner in the first round, then only votes for the top two candidates will be considered from the 2nd round. 2nd choice votes for any other candidates will not be counted or reported.
Not only will candidates and voters be in the dark as to how much support each candidate got, but voters will not be able to look at the results and see if they hurt or helped their preferred candidates by ranking. It is a fact that Hendersonville voters can hurt their preferred candidates just by ranking them, according to Dr. Steven Brams of New York University. But if Henderson's Board of Elections does not count and report all 2nd and 3rd choice votes, we have no way to know if this happens.
Nothing about how Hendersonville's election is typical of IRV - IRV is for single seat election contests, Hendersonville is using it for multi-seat elections and thwarting the use of bullet voting also called "single shot" voting.
Downsides with Hendersonville's Instant runoff voting procedures:
1. Voters are handicapped by IRV because they do not know who the top 2 candidates are that they should vote for, so there vote might not count in the "instant runoff". In a traditional runoff, voters would all have an equal opportunity to vote for the runoff candidates.
2. Candidates, supporters and IRV advocates will not know how IRV benefited or hindered their 2nd and 3rd choice votes since Henderson's BoE doesn't plan to count or report these votes. Democracy and transparency are weakened when all votes are not counted.
Most IRV jurisdictions count and report all of the voters choices. Only Hendersonville, NC will not do so. Below is an example of how San Francisco reports all of the vote data:
Henderson BoE Director Beverly Cunningham 2 emails on October 16:
1) In Hendersonville's 2007 IRV election, did the Henderson County BoE count or record or report any of the 2nd or 3rd choice votes? No, we stop counting when a threshold of victory is met.
2) What plans does the Henderson County Board of Elections have in order to count, record and report the 2nd and 3rd choice votes for the 2009 IRV election? I understand we will follow the same procedures as explained in No. 1).
3) In the 2009 IRV election, which if any of the 2nd and 3rd choice votes will be publicly reported and or counted? Only votes needed to determine the threshold of victory will be reported.
4) Provide the method, algorithm and spreadsheet that will be used to report and tally the IRV results. Still waiting on state to provide info.
5) Provide the "rules" to sorting and re-allocating the IRV 2nd and 3rd choice votes. (this is a second request) Still waiting on state to provide info.
Beverly W. Cunningham, Director
Henderson County Board of Elections
828 697 4970
Email 2, info requests continued:
4) Provide the method, algorithm and spreadsheet that will be used to report and tally the IRV results. The method of tabulation is a manual process utilizing Microsoft Excel to augment the sorting and totaling.
5) Provide the "rules" to sorting and re-allocating the IRV 2nd and 3rd choice votes.
o Determine the two (2) candidates with the most votes that are in the instant runoff.
o The candidates retain all the votes from the 1st round of tabulation. All ballots for the contest that have votes for candidates in the runoff are removed from the tabulation (they have
already been tabulated).
o Review (2nd Choice) to determine ifthere is a vote for either runoff candidate. If yes, add the vote to therunoff candidate and no further examination of the ballot is necessary.
o If there is no vote for either runoff candidate in (2ndChoice) then
review (3rd Choice) to determine if there is a vote for a runoff candidate.
If yes, add the vote to the runoff candidate and no further examination of the ballot is necessary.
o End of ballot examination. The runoff candidate with the most votes is declared the winner.
Beverly W. Cunningham,Director
Henderson County Board of Elections
828 697 4970
Hendersonville Contests and Candidates for November IRV election:
CITY OF HENDERSONVILLE MAYOR
Mary Jo Padgett
Barbara G. Volk
CITY OF HENDERSONVILLE COUNCIL
Want to see what Hendersonville's ballot will look like?
If you vote in person, you will cast your ballot on a touchscreen machine. Here are screen shots of that ballot. Its easy to see how confusing the ballot would be when presented on a touchscreen machine.
If you cast an absentee by mail ballot, here is a copy of the paper ballot and some information: CITY OF HENDERSONVILLE w/ Instant Runoff Voting
About us: The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is a grassroots non-partisan organization fighting for clean and verified elections. We study and research the issue of voting to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen. The NC Voter Verified Coalition has consistently fought for increasing access, participation and ensuring the voter franchise. Contact Joyce McCloy, Director, N.C. Coalition for Verifiable Voting - phone 336-794-1240 website http://www.ncvoter.net/ and also http://www.instantrunoffvoting.us/