[EM] Burlington 2009 IRV election valid ballot rate

Terry Bouricius terryb at burlingtontelecom.net
Mon Mar 30 15:25:51 PDT 2009


The number of voters participating in the 2009 Burlington mayoral election 
was somewhat higher than typical recent, non-IRV elections. In general 
turnout is higher when there is a race with no incumbent and lower when 
there is an incumbent in the race. The Participation in U.S. municipal 
elections is notoriously low. In Burlington thre has been essentially no 
population growth in the past two decades according to the census, but the 
number of registered voters fluctuates based on when lists get "cleaned" 
and when there is a hot federal race (a LOT of new registers during the 
Obama McCain race). Thus while the percentage of "registered voters" might 
fluctuate unpredictably, the raw number and percentage of "voting age 
population" is relatively stable.

After the 2006 mayoral election I went to city hall to get the voter 
turnout numbers from the recent elections. I will paste them below (I 
don't have numbers for the 2007 and 2008 non-mayoral election years --  
Burlington switched to a three-year term recently), but I expect they were 

Terry Bouricius

      Burlington March voter turnout summary
      YEAR                  TURNOUT

      2001 Council only 6300
      2002 Council and Mayoral 7751
      2003 Council only 7791
      2004 Council and Mayoral 8647
      2005 Council only 7550
      2006  Council & Mayor al with IRV 9865

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Juho Laatu" <juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk>
To: "election-methods" <election-methods at electorama.com>
Sent: Monday, March 30, 2009 5:34 PM
Subject: Re: [EM] Burlington 2009 IRV election valid ballot rate

There were thus 8984 votes out of which

- 4 were listed as invalid in the official
results. These seem to be blank votes.

- 6 votes that contained ties. 4 of these
were exhausted at the first round. According
to Terry Bouricius 3 of these were found not
to be ties after all in the partial recount.

- 606 votes were exhausted before the final
round. Part of these are likely to be
intentional (voter didn't want to take
position) but part of them were mistakes
of the voter. Either the voter didn't
understand how to cast an efficient vote
or the voter made false assumptions on
which candidates will make it to the
last round.

- 2458 votes ranked less than two of the
three leading candidates. If we assume
that any two of the three strongest
candidates could have made it to the last
round then these votes could have been
exhausted before the last round (due to
not listing any of the two last round
candidates). Again, some of these must
have been intentional and some voter
mistakes (due to not understanding how to
vote efficiently or due to miscalculating
the probabilities).

The percentage of ballots that were not
filled properly was very marginal.

The percentage of votes that failed or
could have failed to indicate all the
relevant preferences that the voter had
seems to be higher (part of the 606 and
2458 votes). This is not catastrophic
though. Maybe people will learn, or
maybe it is acceptable to have even
this kind of numbers in the long run.

(Some of the voters may also be bullet
voters by nature. "All or nothing."
"My candidate is the best and all
others are out of consideration."
Maybe they want to send this kind of
message in their vote (even though
they understand that they will cast
a weak vote).)

It seems that ballots were not too
complex to fill properly, and most
voters also filled them well enough
to be counted also at the last round.
One remaining concern is that someone
said that the level of participation
was low. The complexity of the method
may partially influence this. I don't
know what the usual participation
level and participation level in this
election was in Burlington but I hope
that it will be at regular levels in
the future. Otherwise the complexity
of the method may have an impact on
the results.


--- On Mon, 30/3/09, Terry Bouricius <terryb at burlingtontelecom.net> wrote:

> Date: Monday, 30 March, 2009, 4:16 PM
> Warren,
> Regarding the number of valid ballots in the Burlington IRV
> mayoral
> election:
> (I doubt anyone else is interested in this, but I will post
> it to the list
> just in case.)
> Now I understand the source of your confusion about the
> number and rate of
> "valid" ballots. The word "valid" has more than one
> possible usage.. the
> Choice Plus Pro software web output posted on the
> Burlington web site uses
> a non-standard definition...it includes all of the four
> (although actually
> discovered in the recount to be only one) first round
> exhausted ballots
> (that the scanner detected two ovals marked in the first
> choice column) as
> "valid," because they were genuinely cast by voters and
> could be
> incorporated into the algorithm. We however refer to these
> as "invalid"
> ballots, meaning ballots which were cast with an intent to
> participate in
> the contest, but were apparently miss-marked so as to make
> the voter
> intent uncertain. However also note that four different
> ballot cards were
> BLANK....the voters completely skipped this particular race
> and didn't vote
> at all. Choice Plus Pro unfortunately uses the term
> "invalid" where as it
> should use the standard election administration and legal
> term "blank" to
> describe these four blank ballots. If you look at the
> actual ballot data,
> you will see 8,980 ballots with rankings marked, and four
> blank ballots
> with no votes at all. If one adds in the four blank ballot
> papers, the
> total is 8,984. Since voters often skip some races, and no
> jurisdiction in
> the U.S. that I am aware of includes blank ballots in the
> base for
> calculating spoilage rates, our analysis focuses on the
> 8,980 ballots that
> were cast for this particular contest. Of these, the
> recount showed that
> at most one was an invalid over-vote...thus the rate of
> 99.99% valid.
> Finally, you can find the results of the recount on the
> city's web site
> www.burlingtonvotes.org. They are labeled as uncertified,
> because the city
> attorney says state law has specific requirements for
> completion, and a
> certification form to be signed by the Board of Civil
> Authority at the end
> of the recount. Since Kurt Wright, the petitioner, called a
> stop to the
> recount at the half-way point, the partial results could
> not legally be
> called official or certified. But the fact remains that the
> three ballots
> the vote scanner identified as invalid over-votes in Ward
> 1, were in fact
> found, and determined to have only stray marks in the
> write-in oval, and
> in fact to be valid votes, that were added to the candidate
> totals during
> the recount.
> I hope this clarifies the situation.
> Terry Bouricius
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Warren Smith" <warren.wds at gmail.com>
> To: "election-methods" <election-methods at electorama..com>
> Sent: Sunday, March 29, 2009 5:02 PM
> Subject: [EM] Burlington 2009 IRV election pathologies -
> updated web page
> Bouricius and Richie ("FairVote")
> objected to the fact that many of the lies in
> their multiyear propaganda/lying campaign to mislead
> millions about IRV had been refuted by us by analysing
> IRV's pathologies in the Burlington 2009 mayoral election.
> (A lot of the FairVote lies
> are conveniently outlined in GREEN in our
> http://rangevoting.org/Burlington.html
> and
> http://rangevoting.org/BurlResponses.html
> pages; more are documented at, e.g,
> http://rangevoting.org/Irvtalk.html .)
> Although most of their new objections were as-pathetic and
> misleadling as
> their usuals, they did contribute one correct one.
> As a result, we have added the following "update" section
> to this page:
> http://rangevoting.org/BurlResponses.html#update
> -- 
> Warren D. Smith
> http://RangeVoting.org <-- add your
> endorsement (by clicking
> "endorse" as 1st step)
> and
> math.temple.edu/~wds/homepage/works.html
> ----
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