Some time, not too long ago, I was to a social function with a few other families who are friends of my family. At that event, when I was talking with one person I have known for years, the subject of politics came up. As he praised the system they have in many European countries where many elections are followed by runoff elections, I suggested to him that Instant Runoff voting (IRV) may be a better solution to the problems he wanted to solve. However, as much as I like the idea of Instant Runoff Voting, he gave a very strong reason for seeing it as unacceptable – that being that it would be impossible to have both that and another reform that we both agreed was more important – that being vote verification.
Vote verification simply means that the citizenry has a way to be assured that every vote was counted as the one who cast it intended, and that the legitimately-cast votes are the only ones counted. In short, it means that the citizenry doesn’t have to the authority’s word that the election wasn’t rigged – but has a means of verifying this.
As much as I am very much in favor of the advantages that could be gained by IRV, I had to agree that the point he brought up was indeed a valid point – and that if it can not be resolved, is a deal-breaker for IRV. It is folly to push for IRV to be adopted until this issue is resolved. It is very simple why. In traditional voting, vote verification can be implemented as follows: The votes would be tallied and entered under multi-partisan supervision into a computer system at each local precinct. Then, the results from all the local precincts would be combined to form a general tally based on which the results of the election would be declared. If anyone suspects there was any funny business, they could call for a re-count under even greater supervision. It would be simple to do this as long as each ballot contained a reference to one and only one candidate per election.
However, what if each ballot contains not only the voter’s primary pick for the election – but also an alternate in case the primary pick is eliminated, maybe another alternate in case both of those are eliminated, and so-forth? A system of vote verification could get really messy when there is this much data to keep track of. So assuring vote verifiability can be much more difficult when IRV is involved.
But am I about to take it lying down that this dillema is inevitable? Not a chance! I agree that vote verifiability is more important, but I strongly feel that IRV is also very important if freedom is to survive and progress, rather than regress. Hence I lay down the gauntlet of the Instant-Runoff Voting Verifiability Challenge. If you have any suggestions on how to make it logistically feasible to have both vote verification and IRV, please respond with a comment to this blog post explaining how you plan to solve the logistical difficulties.
I pose this this challenge to anyone following this blog – but not just to you. I will extend this challenge to anyone I can inform of the challenge – and anyone whom any of you are willing to inform of the challenge. Even if this challenge solves the problem of the logistics, there will still be the even greater challeneg ahead of pushing the solution past the Powers that Be who’s interest IRV doesn’t necessarily serve — but at least then we will have a sound solution to try to push past them.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out your thinking caps, and try to find a solution to this logistical dillema. 🙂