Kevin Zeese testimony about IRV to Ways and Means
- The Democratic legislature with a veto proof majority in both houses can pass IRV legislation. They need to include it in the omnibus electoral reform bill which will be put forward in the next session.
TESTIMONY OF KEVIN B. ZEESE
BEFORE THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE
November 30, 2005
I am a citizen and voter in Maryland and am submitting this testimony as an individual, even though I am a co-founder of TrueVoteMD.org and VoteTrustUSA.org. I address two issues in this testimony: Voter Verified Paper Ballots and Instant Run-Off Voting.
Voter Verified Paper Ballots
It is important to put in place a voter verified paper ballot for independent audits and meaningful recounts in time for the 2006 primary and general elections. We are likely to have some very close primary and general election races and an independent and meaningful recount will be necessary in order to ensure voters have confidence in the election results. For example, in the U.S. Senate race, in which I am running, we will have a three-way race, an election that looked close when it was only a two-way race will become even closer and harder to predict. In addition, the gubernatorial election is expected to be very close. And, there are always close House and Senate races.
Maryland's Diebold voting systems have experienced serious problems. Touch-screen voting machines experienced numerous machine failures (including blank and partial ballots, screen freezes, smart-card problems, boot-up failures, vote switching, etc.) during the Nov. 2004 election in Maryland. According to the Montgomery County Board of Elections Lesson Learned Report seven percent of machines failed and five percent of the machines had suspected failures. In addition, there were serious systemic problems in Baltimore County in 2004, according to reports to me by people working with the Maryland Board of Elections. To this day there is a discrepancy of 6,500 votes between the SBE reported number of voters and the number of votes cast. More than 6,000 missing votes in one County is a serious problem. That could be enough votes to affect the outcome of several elections in 2006.
There is no alternative to vote verification that is currently available. No matter what sales people tell you the vendors producing alternative verification systems only have prototypes NOTHING OTHER THAT PAPER RECORDS IS IN USE ANYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES. It is very unlikely that anything other than a paper ballot record can move beyond the prototype stage by the time of the primary and general election as it would require coordination with Diebold (assuming Maryland keeps the Diebold machines) and testing. Maryland should not be the guinea pig for new voting technology. We made that mistake with the Diebold system and hopefully have learned not to make the same mistake again. Further, only a paper ballot provides an independent record, confirmed by the voter, and it allows for recounts to be conducted in the event of voting machine failures. If the electronic voting machine crashes, freezes and losses data there will be an independent record that can be counted.
Maryland is alone as the only state voting statewide on paperless voting machines. Twenty-six states already have paper audit trail legislation or require it by executive order. Three states and numerous counties in other states have decided to use paper audit trail systems without a law or other requirement. Another three states have used optical scan systems state-wide for a long time.
Two recent reports support a voter verified paper ballot. General Accounting Office's (GAO) report on election security and reliability concerns, issued on Oct. 21, 2005, stated that numerous touch-screen machine problems have led to lost and miscounted votes. The Commission of Federal Election Reform co-chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker III issued a report titled, "Building Confidence in U.S. Elections" in September 2005, which called on Congress to require that all electronic voting machines include a paper audit trail. (See http://www.american.edu/ia/cfer/.) There is no question that the United States is moving toward requiring a voter verified paper ballot in all elections.
Maryland should recognize that the smartest course of action would be to stop leasing the Diebold machines and move to precinct based optical scans. Within five years this will be less expensive the Diebold and they are more accurate, more accessible to the disabled and produce a voter verified paper ballot.
Majority Elections Through Instant Run-Off Voting
The fastest growing group of registered voters in Maryland are those registering independent of the two major parties. In addition, Democratic Party registrations are declining. As a result, less and less voters are represented by the two parties. This will result in more multi-candidate races like the U.S. Senate race in Maryland this year. In order to ensure that candidates are elected by a majority vote, Maryland should adopt Instant Run-Off Voting.
Instant Run-off Voting allows voters to rank their vote -- voters indicate a one for a first choice, two for a second choice, and three for a third choice. This simple but ground-breaking advance in elections ensures that in an election with more than two candidates, your vote can count for your second choice if your first choice can't win. Here's how it works: if a candidate receives a majority of first choices, that candidate wins. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and a second round of counting occurs wherein the eliminated candidate's votes go to each voter's next choice. Rounds of counting continue until there is a majority winner You can get more information on IRV at www.FairVote.org.
On November 8, 2005 Takoma Park, MD became the first city in Maryland to consider IRV the referendum passed with 84 percent support. This is an issue voters want. They want to be able to vote for candidates they believe in without the fear of helping candidates they oppose.
The US electoral system is in crisis; less than half the potential voters vote - the lowest in the western, industrialized world. Non voters report that the reason they do not vote is because the candidates do not represent their interests. The winner-take-all election system often pushes voters to vote their fears and not their beliefs. When candidates win with less than majority support it undermines the perceived voter mandate of the government. IRV helps to fix these problems and allow more voters to vote for the candidates they support.
Advances for IRV are being made around the world and around the United States. IRV is used in major elections in Australia, Ireland and Great Britain. In 2002 San Franciscans voted 55%-45% to adopt instant runoff voting. And Oakland, California voted 75.9 to 24.0 in favor if IRV on March 5, 2002 . Ferndale, MI has put in place IRV voting. Burlington, VT is using IRV as will be Hopkins, MN. A Vermont League of Women Voters proposal to use instant runoff voting for statewide elections was debated in over 50 town meetings in 2002; of the 51 towns reporting results, 49 supported adoption of instant runoff voting, most by overwhelming margins. Legislation is now being considered in Vermont to require IRV.
As former Independent candidate John Anderson said in an article about the Ralph Nader 2004 Independent campaign: Having an election between two candidates is obviously better than a one-party dictatorship, but having an election among more than two candidates is better than a two-party duopoly. He went on to highlight how Ross Perot's candidacy increased voter interest in the presidential election and how that was healthy for our democracy. Anderson concluded: With Instant Run-off Voting, we would determine a true majority winner in one election and banish the spoiler concept. Voters would not have to calculate possible perverse consequences of voting for their favorite candidate. They could vote their hopes, not their fears.
If the elected officials in Maryland fail to put in place IRV they are knowingly creating a straight-jacket for Maryland voters at a time when both old parties are unpopular and when there will be more multi-candidate elections. If voters choose to vote outside the two parties then you will have no right to claim such candidates are spoilers. They are not the spoilers the system of voting that you have created is spoiled.
While there are many other election reforms that are needed, e.g. campaign finance, non-partisan administration of elections, voting by mail, easier ballot access for independents and third parties, the two described in detail are urgently needed and should be put in place in time for the 2006 elections.
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