The Day, Susan Bysiewicz, and we agree: No IRV for New London

New London is considering a charter revision to include an elected strong mayor, Instant Runoff Voting, and other changes.  We oppose IRV because it is complex to calculate for multi-district elections, confusing/misunderstood by many voters, and does not provide the touted benefits. Others point to the added costs. The Day points to the complexity of issues for voters with several charter changes combined, especially Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) , while referencing the Secretary of the State’s objections that IRV cannot be counted by our optical scanners and that IRV is currently illegal in Connecticut.

The Day: Make elected mayor clear charter choice on ballot <read>

Please New London, don’t make the same mistake twice.

Two years ago the city missed its chance to give voters a fair say on whether they wanted an elected mayor in place of a contracted city manager, sullying the ballot question with other divisive issues.

Now, it looks like the same thing could happen again. Don’t allow it. Just ask voters plain and simple – do you support an elected mayor as chief executive officer of the city? That’s all it takes. It doesn’t have to be as difficult as a Rubik’s Cube. But that’s what it’s turning out to be…

The charter review panel, headed by Robert Grills, did thoroughly examine the directly elected mayor concept and endorsed it, but they mired it with a boatload of other recommendations. And while the charter group has been a diligent, dedicated and progressive-thinking commission, its work will be for naught if it is not quickly reined in…

Questionable proposals include the so-called “rank voting” or instant run-off system for electing a mayor. Yes, commissioners endorse the idea of electing the city’s chief executive to a four-year term and giving the mayor veto and appointment powers, but they’ve muddied it by tying it to rank voting rather than using the traditional system in which the person with the most votes wins.

Allowing voters to rank mayoral candidates one, two, three, etc., may be a progressive and even noble idea, but Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz thinks it is illegal. State statutes only require a winning candidate to garner a plurality of votes, said Ms. Bysiewicz. On top of that, rank voting doesn’t work on the state’s new optical scan machines; poll workers will be manually counting ballots.

Election officials in Connecticut have shown they are not up to the challenge of accurately counting votes during the post-election audits. How well would they do in a charged atmosphere of a close IRV election?

2 responses to “The Day, Susan Bysiewicz, and we agree: No IRV for New London”

  1. mattw

    I find it hard to believe that these machines couldn’t be programmed to count “ranked” votes. Let’s say that there are three candidates for Mayor — can the machines really not make a report that looks like:

    OFFICE 10
    MAYOR – FIRST CHOICE
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    LUTHER W 150
    SUSAN B 170
    MICHAEL K 160
    BLANK 10

    OFFICE 15
    MAYOR – SECOND CHOICE
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    OF LUTHER W
    SUSAN B 60
    MICHAEL K 80
    BLANK 10

    OF SUSAN B
    LUTHER W 130
    MICHAEL K 35
    BLANK 5

    OF MICHAEL K
    LUTHER W 90
    SUSAN B 40
    BLANK 30

    Now, cross-endorsements and each additional candidate over 3 would make the report much longer, but these machines aren’t abacuses for chrissakes!

    The plurality thing is interesting, but the statute seems to let municipalities pass laws to change the standards for non-state offices:

    Sec. 9-173. Plurality required for election. In the election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of the State, Treasurer, Comptroller and Attorney General, the person receiving the greatest number of votes for each of said offices, respectively, shall be declared elected. If no person has a plurality of the votes for any of said offices, the General Assembly shall choose such officer. In the election for senator in Congress, the person receiving the greatest number of votes for such office shall be declared elected; but, if no person has a plurality of the votes for said office, the Governor may make a temporary appointment of a senator in Congress to serve for the ensuing two years unless the General Assembly directs a special election for a senator in Congress, to be held during said period, to fill the vacancy occasioned by such failure to elect. In all elections of representatives in Congress, state senators, state representatives and judges of probate, the person having the greatest number of votes shall be declared elected. Unless otherwise provided by law, in all municipal elections a plurality of the votes cast shall be sufficient to elect.

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