Talking to Local Officials About Voting Equipment

The goal is to acquire voting equipment that is fully compatible with all ballot types currently used in the United States, which include two cities using ranked ballot voting systems:  Cambridge MA, which uses the choice voting form of proportional representation, and Oakland CA, which passed a city charter amendment to use instant runoff voting in special elections to fill vacancies on city council.. To achieve this, it is important to participate in the process of acquiring new equipment. In places that do not acquire compatible equipment, it is implement ranked ballot voting systems using a hand count or three methods that work with existing equipment.

These steps may be helpful.  Let us know how it goes.

  1. Find out what kind of equipment is currently used, how compatible it is with transferable ballots, and when new equipment will be acquired. Refer to CVD’s report on the compatibility of voting equipment.
  2. Inform election officials in a meeting and in writing that you would like to be informed about and involved in the process of acquiring new voting equipment. Affiliations with good government groups like the League of Women Voters and political parties may be helpful.
  3. Advocate including compatibility with transferable ballots in the Request for Proposals (RFP) when the jurisdiction decides to acquire new equipment. Point out the likelihood of winning campaigns for IRV or choice voting or a political party’s adopting IRV or choice voting for primaries or other internal elections. Including this provision now would be a lot cheaper than having to buy new equipment later.
  4.  Educate the election officials about the equipment can handle transferable ballots (chiefly optical scanners and touch screen systems). Refer them to CVD’s report.
  5.  Remind the election officials of the potential cost savings from switching to vote-by-mail. Optical scanners are fully compatible with vote-by-mail while touch screens are not.
  6. Remember that the voting equipment only needs to allow voters to rank candidates and store individual rankings. The voting equipment does not have to transfer ballots. Commercially available software performs the transfers. Cambridge, MA uses software available from Jerel Software.
  7. As a last resort, for jurisdictions with no plans to acquire compatible equipment, there are 3 ways of implementing transferable ballot systems with existing equipment in addition to the traditional hand count. These are the recount method, the pairing method and the stored pairs method. None of these methods is ideal, but they will work until fully compatible equipment is acquired.

Please let us know how your discussions with election officials go. If someone asks you a question about equipment that you can’t answer, say, "I am not sure about that, but I’ll get back to you," and contact us. If we don’t already know the answer, we’ll do our best to answer it.

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.