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April 4, 2003


Instant Runoff Voting

A Timeline to Nowhere?

During the March 2002 election, the folks at the Center for Voting and Democracy brought us Prop A, making Instant Runoff Voting the law of the city. The Call has been following its implementation (3.12.03 Betsey Culp: Elections, The Status of Instant Runoff Voting; 3.14.03 Kevin Shelley on IRV;3.21.03 Herrera Supports IRV )

"A well-intentioned plan, no doubt," says Ken Garcia, but one so fraught with technical and logistical problems that it appears -- if the system can even be introduced -- a winner won't be chosen before mid-December at considerable cost to the taxpayers."

CVD senior analyst Caleb Kleppner has been keeping tabs on the implementation process. Kleppner forwards this timeline, which suggests that the gremlin in the works is not "technical and logistical problems" but simply human procrastination:

Dramatis personae:
Mendelson Election Commission President Michael Mendelson, appointed by District Attorney Terence Hallinan
Stowers Election Comissioner Brenda Stowers, appointed by Treasurer Susan Leal
Arntz Department of Elections Acting Director John Arntz
Moll Deputy City Attorney Julie Moll
Herrera  City Attorney Dennis Herrera
CVD Center for Voting and Democracy
Hill CVD staffperson Steven Hill
ES&S  San Francisco's current voting equipment vendor, Election Systems and Software
Taggard Joe Taggard, a vice president of ES&S
Eagle San Francisco's voting machines, the Optech Eagle [Editor's note to Ken Garcia: The Eagle is the method currently used by the City of San Francisco, not a "system of computer touch screens that was supposed to accompany the new voting procedure (but) has never been tested."]
March 5 Prop A passes with 55% of the vote
May 13 Mendelson claims letters have been mailed to Taggard and John Mott-Smith requesting specifics
June 5 Taggard, Mendelson & Stowers and express their desire to establish overall policy and guidelines
Sept. At Mendelson's request, CVD draws up and delivers an implementation policy
Oct. Arntz says ES&S is planning to apply for certification by the end of the year
Oct. Julie Moll says a letter to ES&S went out with deadlines, asking if that company can and will implement IRV on the Eagles.  Otherwise, the city will have to open the process up to an RFP (Request for Proposals)
Jan. 1 Original date for signing a contract with vendor
Jan. 10  Vendor delivers proposal
Jan. 14  Mendelson says contract will be signed in 10-14 days [i.e., by Jan. 28]
Jan. 21  First contract negotiating session
Jan. 28  Elections Department receives 1st submission from vendor
Feb. 13  Mendelson says 10-14 days [i.e., by Feb. 27]
Feb. 19  Mendelson says 10-14 days [i.e., by Mar. 5]. When Hill reminds him that that’s what he said last week, Mendelson hangs up on Hill, doesn’t speak again to Hill until April 2 at the Elections Commission meeting.
Mar. 4  Taggard says the contract will be signed in 2 weeks [i.e., by Mar. 18]
Mar. 5  Election Commission meeting:  Mendelson & Arntz say the contract will be signed within two weeks [i.e., by Mar. 19]
Mar. 7  Elections Dept to reply to vendor
Mar. 19  Elections Commission meeting says "next week" [i.e., ca. Mar. 26]
Mar. 26  Taggard says “early April,” with application for certification in June or July
Mar. 31  Herrera says “next week” [i.e., ca. Apr. 2] is realistic
Apr. 1  Taggard says “likely April 10”
Apr. 2  Elections Dept. representative, Jennifer Novak, says “probably next week”; Taggard says end of month