Elections in June after all

First, a few super super Tuesday notes. If you don’t know your polling place, you can find it here. If your polling place is inconvenient for you, every Alameda County voter can vote at the County Courthouse downtown. If you are registered as “Decline-to-State,” you can still vote for Obama. You just need to ask for a Democratic Party ballot at your polling place. Happy voting!

dto510 returned from a length blogging break last week to reportt some City Hall gossip about the June primaries. The word on the street (or around Frank Ogawa plaza, at least) was that that some Councilmembers were planning on rejecting the resolution that voting machines couldn’t be ready in time, and delaying the Council elections until November anyway.

You see, the City Council is scheduled to receive a status report (PDF!) on implementation of instant runoff voting (the status being that it isn’t ready) and approve an ordinance confirming that we will hold our primary on June 3rd (PDF!), therefore not having IRV this year.

Here’s the story. The voting system we would need to have IRV is currently undergoing certification tests. We don’t know when those tests will be done (hopefully March or April). Once the Federal Government approves the machines, then the Secretary of State has to. We don’t know how long that will take either. So at this point, it is unlikely that the machines would be certified by November. If we don’t have a certified voting system, we can’t hold an election.

Now, normally, in the absence of a certified system, we would revert to using paper ballots which would then be counted the old-fashioned way. But the old-fashioned way involved having a primary in June. You can’t do IRV on paper ballots.

Or can you? Despite the fact that IRV was sold to voters as a faster, money-saving option, and hand counting would take weeks and cost of fortune, that’s exactly what some Councilmembers apparently thought we should do. They pointed to the 3,000 person town of Cary, NC, who held an experimental election using IRV on paper ballots. I wonder if they’re aware that that election drew complaints from voters about accuracy, transparency, and clarity.

Anyway, a new supplemental report (PDF!) gives a resounding thumbs-down to that option because:

Currently there is no hand count method approved for counting an Instant Run-Off election in the State of California and no method has been submitted to the Secretary of State as required by state law.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has indicated that it would not be feasible for his office to conduct the election using the Cary, North Carolina method due to the procedural requirements that were implemented after the Secretary of State’s top to bottom review.

The method used in Cary, North Carolina is different from the method prescribed in Measure O in that it applies only to the top two candidates and does not address the application of the voter’s rankings of the other candidates after the first tally.

So there you go. We only have four months before we get to vote all over again.