Hearing On Public Financing – Ad Hoc Testimony On Voting Integrity Issue

Yesterday the Government Administration and Elections Committee held hearings on proposed fixes to the Citizens Election Program which has been ruled unconstitutional and is currently under appeal.  You can read the details at CTMirror and CTNewsJunkie.  As the systems stands now there is great uncertainty.  For now the program continues under the current law, but the appeals court could rule at anytime confirming the law or more likely ruling it unconstitutional.  In the event the law is ruled unconstitutional the legislature would have seven days to fix the law to maintain the program, but  the fate of a fix and its details would remain unknown leaving uncertainty until it is fixed.

Officially the state’s position is that the law is constitutional. The Legislature and Governor can act now to fix the law, yet that would seem to have the same effect as a ruling that the law is unconstitutional.  The result is ongoing uncertainty for candidates now as they contemplate what might happen if they choose to participate in the program.

Ad Hoc Testimony On Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)

We went to the hearing to listen, with no intention of testifying.  We focus our efforts on voting integrity.  While I personally support the Citizens Election Program we see no voting integrity implications positive or negative.  However, Representative Linda Schofield brought up the issue of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in her testimony.  She urged the committee to consider adding IRV to the bill and stated the benefits she found in research on IRV.  After her testimony I gave her my card and asked to discuss the reasons some are concerned with IRV.  Later another advocate expressed support of IRV in his testimony.  A committee member,  Representative Peggy Reeves, asked Representative Schofield an important question:  Could our current optical scanners handle an IRV election?

I debated testifying.  The hearing was about the Citizens Election Program.  IRV was really off topic.  However, this was the first time to my knowledge that IRV has come up in the Legislature.  Perhaps with a few words I could express an alternative view before a large number of legislators take a position; so legislators and advocates would know that there are alternative views and significant concerns.  I was the last speaker after a long day, accepting the Chair’s generous offer for anyone to testify who had not signed up.  My goal was to be brief and not waste anyone’s time. Hopefully we will have a transcript in a few days.  I made the following points:

  • Like many people, I initially thought IRV was a good idea – something that would promote democracy and improve participation.  Yet, after more reading and understanding I found significant concerns.
  • It is difficult to determine the winner and verify the result particularly when votes are close.  It may be feasible for races in a single district or a single small jurisdiction, yet gets much more difficult and complicated when elections cross jurisdictional boundaries.
  • IRV requires more work and knowledge on the part of voters.  Imagine a several page ballot replacing what we now fit on a one-sided ballot.  Where IRV has been used, voters do not understand it. (Not to mention quite a bit of extra work and knowledge required of election officials as well).
  • There are theoretical problems with IRV actually delivering the desired/claimed benefits.  In practice such problems have frequently occurred.

For more background and details on concerns with IRV refer to our post, IRV: Not So Fast, Not So Simple.

Update: Rep. Schofield called me the next day; we had a very good discussion. She was completely open to considering additional information, as I am.

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