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IRV and Election Integrity
Monday, February 16, 2009
Ward clerk for ward six Owen Mulligan wrote to Seven Days reporters Ken Picard and Shay Totten last week, expressing concern about the removal of a process designed to safeguard the integrity of elections in Burlington. He said that in the past ward clerks would start election day by printing tapes from the electronic memory cards in the voting machines that would indicate no votes had been cast yet. Says Owen,
City Hall does a check on each memory card before they are sealed just like every election before they are delivered to each polling location, the difference this time is we are not able to do that print out at each polling location and check the "electronic ballot box" to make sure the races are pre-set at zero. There is nothing for us to sign off on and we are supposed to blindly trust the memeory card that City Hall has provided us.
Someone who should know tells me the machines at the polling places are incapable of counting IRV votes and would produce tapes showing zero votes, regardless of whether there were votes on them or not. The software in the voting machines can't interpret IRV ballots. Only the Windows-based "Choice Plus Pro" software at City Hall can.

Unless you run those memory cards through "Choice Plus Pro" before they go out to the polls, there would be no way to be sure they didn't already have votes on them. That didn't happen in our first IRV election three years ago. Although there is no evidence whatsoever that there was any funny business last time around, it's clear that the integrity of the our mechanisms here merit improvement and serious public scrutiny.

In a comment string on this issue at Blazing Indiscretions Terry Bouricius, THE original Progressive city councilor of 1981, and a partner in the company that consults on our IRV said...

At my request, Dana Baron, the city's IT person working on the election, double checked with the voting machine vendor, LHS Associates, and found out that what the poll workers were told at their training about the running of zero tapes was NOT correct. The tabulators WILL indeed run meaningful tapes before voting commences that will show if any ballots have been fed in. The tape will be printed again at the end of the day that will show how many ballots the machine read.

Hmmm. I guess.

Owen mentions that he will be questioning Ben Pacy about this at election training.
Feb. 24th 5-6:30pm Contois @ City Hall. There is never a bigger or more important election story than one that deals with how the ballots are handled and counted.

*****

Brainstorm: Integrity and other Concerns about Burlington's IRV

*The transportation of memory cards from the polling places to city hall increases the likelihood of their compromise. Under the old system, results had to be read at the polling places and usually were known in minutes. No more.
*Process for establishing votes total zero before ballots are cast needs improvement
*Having a single, Windows based program decide the mayor is disconcerting. The program could be hacked or manipulated.
*An election manipulated to produce a wide enough margin of victory is unlikely to be audited against the paper ballot.
*In a real runoff, if you voted for the top vote getter the first time around, you could change your mind and pick another candidate when you came back to vote in the runoff. In ranked voting, it isn't the same. If your first choice is the top vote getter in the first round, other people's second choice will likely decide the winner. You don't get to participate in the runoff.
*The Chief elections officer who can establish election procedures, improperly injects himself into politics.
*The Chief elections administrator thought a time crunch justified breaking into a ballot box last year, and has yet to run an election without an obvious flaw.
* A manual recount in the mayors race this year would be a good idea regardless of the winner or his margin, just to make sure we can do it.
*Maybe we should scrap IRV. It solves a problem that never existed. There had never been a mayoral runoff before 2006 that I'm aware of.

Labels: ,

posted by Haik Bedrosian @ 7:49 PM  
18 Comments:
  • At February 17, 2009 12:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just hope the election is better run and better organized than the primary and general of Fall 2008.

    WHAT A DISASTER!

    I miss Jo.

     
  • At February 17, 2009 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I believe we should have semi IRV. All canadates for Mayor run once and the two with the most votes run again in a month.

    Also where is the Vermont Sec. of State in this?

    DHR

     
  • At February 17, 2009 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When I attend an election training I would just like to get correct information. After reading Terry's comment on Jay's blog, I called Ben Pacy again and I can't seem to get a clear answer of whether or not we are going to have print outs.

    Anyway, I feel better having the paper documentation and I think more so with the end of night print out that summarizes the results but I don't think that is going to be possible with the IRV tabulator.

    Ben Pacy told me they are still looking into to that print out issue with LHS so I don't think Terry's comment was completely accurate.

    I'm hoping to get a clear answer by the end of the week so I can stop pestering them.

    I'm glad Haik brings up all the other issues as well because there are certainly more when we have put our blind faith in Diebold election machines and software.

    Owen Mulligan

     
  • At February 17, 2009 10:36 AM, Anonymous Charity said…

    Re the second comment - that's a traditional run-off election. That is what we did before IRV, or would have done if it was ever necessary.

    This is indeed disturbing. I have no faith that this will be satisfactorily resolved before the election, either.

     
  • At February 17, 2009 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    For City Council we have a traditional run-off if the top candidate fails to get 40 percent? correct?

    I personally don't feel that more elections are needed. Frankly, I didn't see a problem with the old scantron machines that worked great and were very accurate.

    I just don't want to be sitting around and waiting for Ben Pacey to screw things up...again!

    If Andy, Kurt or Dan get in there, I hope they have the power to fire him.

     
  • At February 17, 2009 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We are f*@!*

     
  • At February 17, 2009 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Chill out everyone! It won't be a problem as long as you vote correctly. Here's how to do it

    Ist choice: whomever...
    2nd choice: whomever...
    3rd choice: whomever...
    4th choice: Green Party Guy
    5th choice: Bob Kiss

    So you see my friends, the system will begin to repair itself as long as your 4th and 5th place votes are properly recorded.

     
  • At February 18, 2009 4:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    HaHa

    Funny. But Bob is my third choice.

    Kurt is my first.

     
  • At February 18, 2009 6:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jo LaMarche was slowly trained over a number of years to run elections - by Progressives (Jim Rader, Michelle Lefkowitz). She was given the benefit of the doubt for years and, in fact, did not run elections properly. Examples could be provided. She had a job making a lot of money and often only had to do one election a year.

    She left the staff just as four major elections were coming up, with no offer of support and full understanding of what she was going to put the staff through.

    Ben went into a box that had about 12 ballots in it. It was proven that it had no outcome on the election during a recount as well as a court case. Over the last year, thousands of individuals have voted successfully, the efforts of the office were superhuman during the November election (with the small staff taking on the task) and recounts have proven that ultimately nothing was miscounted or miscalculated. The Secretary of State's Office applauded Burlington's election efforts.

    Yes, there were some issues, and the Free Press made sure you knew every one of them. If Jo had been put under the microscope you can be sure she'd have been red-faced and left the City a long time ago.

    Unless you're in the thick of it you don't understand the complexity of each small decision. And with so many out there who could "do it better" it won't end.

    The IRV can be easily recalculated using the paper ballots. Have no fear.

     
  • At February 18, 2009 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for the explanation, Jonathon.

     
  • At February 18, 2009 11:32 AM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    Thanks for the explanation, Jonathon.

    It certainly does seem like Jonathon may have written the comment stamped 2/18 at 6:30am. Those are a lot of details not many other people would have.

    I'll just address him as Jonathon for lack of a better name.

    Jonathon-

    Nobody is saying that Jo was perfect and it's certainly true that it takes time to learn how to run elections.

    But to cite the number of ballots in the box, or that Ben breaking into it didn't change the outcome- completely misses the point.

    There is a sacred trust here that neither you or Ben seem to understand. If Jo was caught in a mistake, then she probably would have been red-faced. Ben on the other hand was not contrite at all. In the trial he just kept saying "time crunch, time crunch" and seemed pissed to even be questioned about his crime. Crime.

    As for Jo Leaving with no offer of support... I seriously, seriously doubt the veracity of that statement. I'm quite certain she offered to train or did train the best she could.

    The IRV can be easily recalculated using the paper ballots. Have no fear.

    Let's just do a hand recount then. I would trust the result a lot more if we did.

     
  • At February 18, 2009 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jonnie,IF, if....If Jo LaMarche left with no offer of support it's because you created a hostile work environment. In such an environment the competent folks polish up their resume and find work (because they can) while the others cower.

    Time for a change.

     
  • At February 18, 2009 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Such hostility about Mr. Leopold. And no, it wasn't him writing the previous note. There are many who know this information.

    Amazing how people can be so nasty about one of the people so skilled at saving your money. Really.

     
  • At February 18, 2009 11:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Was that an attempt at a guilt trip? wow.

     
  • At February 19, 2009 11:50 AM, Anonymous jonas said…

    Means vs ends?

     
  • At February 20, 2009 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ok guys and get this...they will be introducing IRV in the giant elections bill next week. Testimony will be taken so all of you out there who KNOW its not going to work, call the Senate Gov Ops and schedule your 5 minutes. If it can't work in Burlington without Jo L.. how in the world is it going to work for the entire state. Don't fix what's not broken.

     
  • At February 21, 2009 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The fact that Ben Pacey is Leopold's deputy and that Leopold injected himself into the Mayor's race (so close to the election) makes me very, very concered about the legitimacy of this race. I am a supporter of IRV. However, the system currently employed is run by political appointees of Bob Kiss. I'm not saying Bob is behind anything unsavory but the way Leopold has conducted himself begs for some investigation.

    I'm really worried that my vote will not be counted or even worse, counted for someone else.

    I want proof that my ballot has been counted. A paper readout is all I ask.

     
  • At March 05, 2009 5:08 PM, Anonymous Mister Guy said…

    "Ward clerk for ward six Owen Mulligan wrote to Seven Days reporters Ken Picard and Shay Totten last week, expressing concern about the removal of a process designed to safeguard the integrity of elections in Burlington."

    Put very simply in a word, Owen Mulligan is a ninny. This is same guy that tried to make a huge deal out of moving a sculpture as a part of the Moran Plant redevelopment.

    Are we to believe that Burlington City Hall will be loading up these cards up with votes before the election...when they are sworn NOT to do so?? Please...

    "Although there is no evidence whatsoever that there was any funny business last time around, it's clear that the integrity of the our mechanisms here merit improvement and serious public scrutiny."

    Were their wards (either this time or last time around) where more votes were counted than there were actual, registered voters?? I doubt it.

    "The transportation of memory cards from the polling places to city hall increases the likelihood of their compromise."

    So, now the people (likely Mulligan himself or another poll worker with a likely police escort) that are transporting these cards are going to be tampering with them?? Please...

    "Having a single, Windows based program decide the mayor is disconcerting. The program could be hacked or manipulated."

    Says who?

    "You don't get to participate in the runoff."

    Yes, you do, but keep saying the opposite again & again...maybe someday it'll be true.

    "Also where is the Vermont Sec. of State in this?"

    I believe she endorses the IRV process.

    "because there are certainly more when we have put our blind faith in Diebold election machines and software."

    Too bad that's NOT what Burlington has done.

    "A paper readout is all I ask."

    Your ask has been granted...there are paper ballots galore that can be examined after ANY Burlington election!

     
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