Implementation Policy for Instant Runoff Voting
[NOTE: This document has been prepared by
the Center for Voting and Democracy to assist the Department of
Elections in implementing Proposition A in a way that ensures that
voting is as easy as possible for all voters and that all votes are
counted to the maximum extent possible. This document was not
commissioned by or paid for by the City and County of San
The charter requires Proposition A to be
implemented for the November election 2003 for mayor, district
attorney and sheriff.
- Proposition A will be implemented using
existing voting equipment (Optech Eagle in precincts, Optech IV-C
for absentee and provisional) with ballot format and polling
procedures that are as similar as possible to current practices.
- Community education will be broad and last
for a minimum of six months.
- To ensure an efficient implementation of
Proposition A, acceptance of the system by voters and low rates of
spoiled ballots, the Elections Commission will contract as
necessary with consultants who have expertise in ranked ballot
systems and in community education about ranked ballot systems.
- The Elections Commission will require
timelines from the vendor chosen to implement Proposition A,
including an approximate date on which the vendor will apply for
certification of hardware, software, and procedures from the
Secretary of State's office.
- The Elections Commission or its consultant
will carefully monitor progress of implementation, including
vendors, community education, and departmental staff and resource
- The Department shall apply this policy in the
spirit of ensuring that every vote is counted in a way that honors
the intent of the voter to the maximum extent possible under the
charter and state law.
Department shall work with the school district and the vendor to
conduct a youth vote at as many high schools as possible in a way
that simulates a live vote as closely as possible. Target data for the vote
is early October.
Some technical guidelines
will have the option of indicating first, second and third
- The following types of ballots will be
accepted as valid votes by the Eagle:
- 1st choice
and 2nd choices only;
2nd and 3rd choices.
- The following types of ballots will be
ejected by the Eagle and the voter will be given the option of
correcting the ballot, filling out a new ballot or overriding the
- Ballots that do not list any choices
that skip a rank before or between choices
2nd choice only
3rd choice only
2nd and 3rd choices only
1st and 3rd choices
with a duplicate ranking
Two candidates listed as 1st choices
Two candidates listed as 2nd choices
Two candidates listed as 3rd choices
that list the same candidate for two choices
Same candidate listed as 1st and 2nd
Same candidate listed as 1st and 3rd
Same candidate listed as 2nd and 3rd
- For ballots ejected, the message printed on
the Eagles tape shall describe the reasons or reasons and the
- ĺ─˙Undervote for mayorĺ─¨
(1st and/or 2nd) choice(s) for
(1st, 2nd or 3rd) choice for mayorĺ─¨
candidate listed as (1st, 2nd) and
(2nd, 3rd) choices for mayor
Interpreting ballots with errors on
instant runoff voting, each ballot counts for the voterĺ─˘s
1st choice until that candidate is eliminated. Then the
ballot counts for the voterĺ─˘s next choice candidate who is still in
the race. The
process of eliminating candidates and counting every ballot for the
voterĺ─˘s highest choice who is still in the race continues until one
candidate receives a majority of the votes and is declared a winner.
complying with language of the charter amendment and by striving to
honor the intent of the voter to the maximum extent possible, we can
specify how to interpret each type of voter error.
Duplicate ranking (e.g., two 1st choice
states that the ballot becomes exhausted when the duplicate
ranking is reached.
Same candidate given two rankings (e.g., Jones as a
1st choice and a 2nd choice)
counts for the voterĺ─˘s highest-ranked choice who has not been
the example, the ballot would count for Jones until Jones is
it would count for the voterĺ─˘s 3rd
counts for the voterĺ─˘s next listed choice once the skipped
ranking is reached.
Here are examples of each type of error
||Interpreted and stored ballot image|
||(1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice)|
Note these errors
could be combined. For
example, a ballot might list 3 (or more) candidates as a
A ballot could skip the 1st choice and then list 2
candidates. By applying
the above rules in the order they are encountered, multiple
errors can be interpreted.
Cleaning of data
(revised Dec 12)
The preferable method
of storing and cleaning data is for the voting equipment to store a
complete image of each ballot scanned, including duplicate rankings,
skipped rankings and so forth.
Cleaning of the data should occur in a later step after all
votes are aggregated. For example, if a ballot lists two
1st choices and a 3rd choice, the stored
ballot image would contain two 1st choices and a
When the ballot is cleaned, this ballot would become
exhausted due to the duplicate 1st choice.
If the preferable
method is not possible, the voting equipment could both scan the
ballot and clean the data.
In this case, there would be no errors stored in the complete
set of rankings.
official application of the IRV tabulation method to the entire
set of voting data will not occur until all ballots (precinct,
absentee and provisionals) have been scanned by voting equipment.
election results will be reported for instant runoff races by two
choice totals shall be reported in all instant runoff races in
each regularly-scheduled election report, starting with report
#1 consisting of early absentee ballots and continuing through
each subsequent election report.
data sets consisting of all votes (each voterĺ─˘s 1st,
2nd and 3rd choice candidates) will be
released on paper and on the Internet on the following
The first data set consisting of early absentee ballots will
be released as soon as possible after 8pm.
The next data set will be released after all or nearly all
precincts report on Election Night.
A data set will be released at the end of each subsequent day
of counting absentee and provisional ballots.
protect the secrecy of ballots, these unofficial data sets will
not indicate votes by precinct, and they will be delayed if the
number of ballots in any data set is small enough to potentially
compromise ballot secrecy.
For example, the Director could decide not to release
reports with fewer than 500 ballots. In this case, once there
remained fewer than 500 absentee and provisional ballots to count,
the process of result reporting would stop until all ballots were
finally released, the official statement of vote will include all
rankings separated by precinct number and by absentee versus
precinct votes, in a way that is as similar to current practices