State Progress on Voting Machines

The California draft Help America Vote Act (HAVA) plan was released on June 17. It has very clear language about promoting compatibility with instant runoff / ranked choice ballots and with cumulative voting. The Massachusetts final HAVA plan and Vermont's HAVA report also have strong language about equipment supporting instant runoff voting, and New Jersey's HAVA report has language about proportional voting methods in general. See excerpts and links below.

In addition, legislation moving in New York state on voting equipment has clear language on ranked-choice systems. The bill, which passed the assembly on June 19, states that new voting machines must "possess the capacity to, or capacity to be easily modified so as to, provide for ranked order voting and cumulative voting." The senate will take up the bill in the fall.

As we have argued in our national testimony, we believe the case is strong that requiring this capacity when obtaining new equipment is cost-free, while waiting to add it to existing equipment in the future can be very expensive. We believe this is likely true of other potential democratic innovations that are well worth seeking to anticipate in the purchasing stage.

In addition to information to links from states referenced above, you also will find below information about the Michigan NAACP's support for standards in support of fair election methods and about FairVote Minnesota's efforts to promote these standards in its state.

Here is info about each state, below.

HAVA State Plan for California

Ranked ballot and cumulative voting compatibility appear in Section 1.

Hava Compliance With Voting Systems Standards
In consultation with local elections officials and other interested parties, including an advisory committee constituted for those purposes by the Secretary of State, and after considering any voluntary guidelines adopted by the Commission pursuant to Subtitle B of Title III, California will, through the regulatory, legislative, voting system certification and decertification processes, or otherwise, comply with HAVA, including the replacement of voting systems that do not comply. In order to help restore the integrity of the voting process, increase the opportunity for all eligible citizens to participate in that process, and to comply with HAVA, the State, under the direction of the Secretary of State, as Chief Elections Officer,11 will, in conjunction with the consultation referred to above, in part:

  • support, promote and encourage the use of direct recording electronic (DRE/touchscreen) voting systems, at polling places in California, and optical scan systems that are used for tabulating vote-by-mail ballots, that are compatible with alternative voting methods such as ranked ballot and cumulative voting
  • consider, through established processes, decertifying systems and refusing to certify systems that cannot accommodate alternative voting systems, such as ranked ballots and cumulative voting systems, in a manner in which voters can easily understand;
  • regularly evaluate voting systems to assess error rates, reliability and accuracy factors, accessibility to voters with disabilities, language assistance needs and literacy needs, and ability to accommodate alternative voting systems; work with local elections officials to share information and make improvements

Massachusetts Final HAVA Plan

Ranked ballot and cumulative voting compatibility appear in Element 1, page 10.

HAVA Compliance with Voting Systems Standards
In an effort to retain the integrity of the voting process, increase the opportunity for all eligible citizens to participate in that process, and to comply with HAVA, the Commonwealth, under the direction of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, as Chief Elections Officer, will, in part:

(d)  develop voting system standards requiring, as part of certification process, that the system demonstrate the ability to support a representative set of possible future ballot procedure changes, including instant runoff voting, as feasible, with an upgrade cost that is substantially less than the cost of complete system replacement.

Vermont HAVA Plan

The Vermont HAVA plan contains this sentence on page 12 discussing the requirements of new voting machines. They must be able to:

"Export an anonymous record of each vote into a secure data file in order to support the option to use rank order ballots or instant runoff voting."

New Jersey HAVA Plan

Key reference is on page 25 in Section 4 on voting machines:

"Further, explicit power should be granted to the Attorney General, on the basis of the voting machine committee recommendations, to de-certify any voting machine that is shown to not meet HAVA requirements. In short, current law has been outpaced by the growing technological advances and must be revised. Any such revision to statutes or regulations should be flexible enough to consider the capability of a voting system to adapt to changes in voting procedures, such as proportional or cumulative voting, which are concepts being considered in other jurisdictions."

New York State Legislation A08847, The Voting Systems Standard Act of 2003

The relevant part is Section 7-202, paragraph 1-U, which states that new voting machines must "possess the capacity to, or capacity to be easily modified so as to, provide for ranked order voting and cumulative voting."

Michigan State Conference of the NAACP's Recommendations for HAVA in Michigan, June 10, 2003

VOTING SYSTEMS (voting machines):
Purchase Machines With IRV & Advanced Voting Capability. The Michigan HAVA plan should require that any voting system selection, monies spent, purchase/lease agreements entered into or request for proposals for new voting machines or technology, be able to accommodate ranked order and cumulative voting ballots. Equipment should be required to handle:
  • Vote for one candidate only (plurality and runoff elections)
  • Vote for more than one candidate (at large plurality, limited voting)
  • Give more than one vote to one or more candidates (cumulative voting)
  • Rank candidates in order of choice (instant runoff voting, choice)

Recent Articles
October 19th 2009
A better election system
Lowell Sun

Election expert Doug Amy explains how choice voting can "inject new blood" into the elections of Lowell (MA), and give voters a greater incentive to participate.

October 16th 2009
Haven't Detroit voters spoken enough?
Livingston Daily

In Detroit, there have been three mayors in the past two years and the current one has come under scrutiny. Perhaps a system like instant runoff voting will help bring political stability to motor city.

August 21st 2009
Black candidate for Euclid school board to test new voting system
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Limited voting, a form of proportional voting, will be used in Euclid (OH), in the hopes of allowing better representation of minorities.

July 2nd 2009
Reforming Albany
New York Times

FairVote's Rob Richie responds in a letter to the editor making the case for proportional voting systems to bring substantive reform to New York's legislature.