Below are verbatim what Craig O’Hare wrote to the City Council and Mayor yesterday. I suggest that you cut and paste this into your emails to the Mayor and your City Council representatives. Onward:
I am concerned about the City’s approach to implementing RCV, specifically:
- 12/19/17 Staff Memo from Zachary Shandler, Assistant City Attorney, to the Governing Body: Staff appropriately references the City Charter which “calls for the percentage of votes to be calculated using “votes cast” as the denominator.” But staff incorrectly interprets “votes cast” as the original number of ballots cast in the first round of voting. Given how RCV (also called “instant runoff voting) works, I suggest that it is wholly reasonable and appropriate to interpret “votes cast” to be the number of votes cast in each subsequent round of voting – in other words, after exhausted ballots have been removed. As I understand it, that’s how other cities (e.g. Berkeley) define “number of votes cast”.
This is easily remedied in the “Definitions” section of proposed Ord. #2017-32, principally by adding “from the continuing ballots” between the words “votes” and “that” on pg. 3, line 25. Other revisions in that section might be needed or helpful including the definition of “Majority of votes” (pg. 2, line 14) and/or by adding “Votes Cast” and/or “Voting Rounds” definitions. But the bottom line is clear; Mr. Shandler’s interpretation of “votes cast” does not make sense for instant runoff voting (i.e. RCV). In a regular runoff election (like Albuquerque just had) only the number of votes cast in the runoff election are “counted” or relevant. So, too with RCV; only the number of votes cast in the final round are relevant.
Many of the RCV advocates are understandably concerned that this is an attempt by the City Attorney to “throw a wrench” into the legal viability of RCV under the Charter and then, subsequently argue before the NM Supreme Court that RCV, as handled by Dominion’s voting software, is not compliant with the City Charter. While I will refrain from making any such accusation, candidly, I do share that concern. The City Attorney is responsible for both making sure the necessary legal issues are addressed to ensure the viability of an RCV election in March and fighting (i.e. “killing”) RCV at the Supreme Court. In a sense, the City Attorney has conflicting responsibilities. Which one is she pursuing more zealously?
- City Clerk Staff and Volunteer Training and Public Outreach and Education: I look forward to Matt Ross’ presentation on the public outreach and education component and am very encouraged that staff has identified robust funding ($350K) for training and outreach. I am concerned, however, that this is not proceeding as quickly as it needs to given that time is clearly of the essence. It’s been over two weeks since the governing body voted unanimously to proceed with implementing RCV. Fiscal Impact Report #3014 indicates that the $350K in expenditures will be presented in a “separate bill” which presumably means the first Council meeting in January. It’s unfortunate that the expenditure ordinance was not included for tomorrow’s meeting and that the funds won’t be approved until next month. In short, I sincerely hope the City is aggressively pursuing RCV implementation in earnest as directed by District Court Judge David Thomson and in no way is “dragging its feet” hoping that its attempt to kill RCV in court will be successful.
Thank you for your attention to my concerns. And as always, I truly do appreciate your service to the citizens of Santa Fe.