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Recommendations for Release of Results and IRV Tabulation

January 2003

San Francisco currently reports election results starting on Election Night on the following schedule:

  • Early absentee results are released in Report #1 as soon as possible after polls close at 8pm.

  • Subsequent reports are released on Election Night as precincts report.  100% of precincts generally report by 11pm.

  • On each day following the election, a single report is released at the end of the day that includes all absentee and provisional votes counted that day.

Nearly all ballots are counted within a week of the election, and the final numbers are typically determined within 7-14 days of the election.

With instant runoff voting, two  additional step in the ballot counting process must occur: an anonymous record of each vote cast must be aggregated in data files, and then the instant runoff tabulation is performed on the entire data set.

An instant runoff tabulation on a partial data set does not have any official significance in the final results, so it does not make sense to perform the tabulation until all (or nearly all) ballots have been scanned.

Since this may not occur until  7-14 days after the election, we believe that it is particularly important to have a very public process of preliminary result reporting.  To achieve this, we recommend releasing results in three ways:

  1. 1st choice totals should be reported in the same manner and on the same schedule as results are currently reported.

  2. Data files consisting of anonymous records of all ballot scanned to date should be released on the following schedule:

    1. Early absentees as soon as possible after polls close

    2. Precinct results as soon as all or nearly all precinct report on election night

    3. One report at the end of each day of ballot counting following Election Night.

  3. After all ballots have been counted and reported according to the above schedule, the Dept. should perform the instant runoff tabulation and report round-by-round vote totals for all candidates, including exhausted ballots, until a candidate receives a majority of continuing ballots.

Sample data files and IRV tabulation results

To give people a sense of what these data file and tabulation results will look like, we have assembled some dummy data that shows the concept.

  1. Early absentee votes

  2. Precinct votes

  3. Absentee and provisional report #1

  4. Absentee and provisional report #2

These data sets contain 50 votes that show first, second and third choice candidates from among a field of 8 candidates.

It is a simple process to drop these data sets into a spreadsheet and perform the IRV tabulation, but we have formatted so that the votes can be tallied by the type of software that the vendor will develop or buy.

If you would like to tally the votes using software, you can download a program called Choice Plus Lite for evaluation purposes.  (The Center for Voting and Democracy does not endorse or guarantee this software.)

To use this program, install it on your computer, copy the 4 data files into the cplite directory, and then copy this input file into the same directory.  Then run the program, load the input file and tally the results.

If everything worked properly, the program will generate output files that look like this:


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