Although Berkeley voters called for Instant Runoff Voting when they passed Measure I in March 2004 by 72 percent, IRV will not happen in 2006, according to City Clerk Sara Cox.
“There’s no time to put it in place,” Cox said by phone on Friday. The process, including going out to bid for machines that can perform IRV, then negotiating a contract for them, cannot be put in place before November, Cox said.
Instant Runoff is a system whereby voters rank candidates by preference: voters indicate their first choice and can rank their second, third or more preferences. This eliminates the need for a runoff, which generally attracts fewer voters. Berkeley’s adopted measure calls for the implementation of Instant Runoff Voting “when voting systems and equipment make it technically feasible.”
It includes a clause mandating the system only if “the city will not incur additional election cost.”
Alameda County voters are using a paper ballot for the primary today (Tuesday). Ballots will be counted by scanners located in Oakland. Each polling place has an electronic touch screen machine leased for the June election, which many disabled voters can use without assistance.
Meanwhile, at a special meeting Thursday, the county supervisors will consider choosing between two voting machines, Diebold Election Systems of Texas and Sequoia Voting Systems of
“The two top machines do not have the software [for IRV]” said Dave MacDonald, acting Alameda County Registrar of Voters.
Election Systems and Software (ES&S) machines are authorized uniquely for the county of San Francisco, which has run two IRV elections.
“To use them [in Berkeley] the state has to agree,” MacDonald said.
City Councilmember Kriss Worthington is part of a group of citizens that had been meeting with former acting Alameda County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold, now the Marin County registrar, on efforts to implement IRV.
Learning from a reporter that officials said IRV will not be implemented this year, Worthington said: “Someone has decided we’re not going to do this. It’s disrespect of 72 percent of the voters.”
Worthington said he had been under the impression that the Secretary of State was reviewing the city’s request for certification of the ES&S system, but Jennifer Kerns in the Secretary of State’s communications office said that is not so.
“There’s been no request to review the question,” Kerns told the Daily Planet.
Ginnold told the Daily Planet on Friday that she had passed Berkeley’s request to implement IRV voting on to County Counsel Richard Winnie. But, in a phone interview, Winnie called the former acting registrar “confused,” and said the county is concentrating on other election-related countywide issues.
“We’ve been struggling to find the proper equipment to conduct an election this fall,” he said. The county has been looking for machines with both a paper trail and access to the disabled, he said.
These issues must be considered, “before we consider IRV,” he said, adding, “Berkeley can conduct its own election.”
Worthington said he had understood that the county was helping Berkeley at this stage, but argued, nevertheless, that there is a way for the city to run its own elections in November. The state would have to certify the ES&S machines, as it had for San Francisco. The cost of Berkeley running its own elections would be equal to or less than funding run-off elections, Worthington said.