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Operating Costs for Elections Departments and Equipment Upgrades and Purchases

IRV cost estimates or actual cost information for Maine, Maryland, Minneapolis MN, Pierce County Washington, Vermont and San Francisco. States are listed in alphabetical order.

Note that we have a report from Pierce County WA officials outlining the costs for their first instant runoff voting (IRV, RCV etc) electon lower down the page.  This is the "must read" report.

It is arguable as to whether IRV decreases costs to elections departments, and with some consistency. Instant Runoff Voting creates new costs - upfront costs for purchase of new voting systems and software, and increased administrative costs in future elections.   There is the cost of the new machines, software, procedural and policy changes, training, and voter education.  While several jurisdictions have adopted IRV , they have not implimented it because their voting machines cannot accommodate the vote counting method. There are less expensive and less complicated ways to avoid runoff elections.


MAINE. Lawmakers pushed IRV in Maine for awhile, but efforts stalled over implementation costs . Maine would have had to purchase voting machines for jurisdictions that still hand count their ballots and second and third choice votes would have to be carried away from the polling place and counted at central locations.
MARYLAND.  Maryland's lawmakers have repeatedly proposed and failed to pass IRV legislation. An examination of the fiscal analysis for the last two bills introduced (SB 292 and HB 1502) indicates that IRV would require enormous start up costs and increased election administration costs. General fund expenditures would be expected to increase by approx $11.1 million in the year 2008.
 
The MD legislature estimated that costs could be as high as $3.50 per registered voter in their 2006 IRV legislation, and a little less in the 2008 bill which did not include the cost of software which could not be estimated. The MD legislature defeated IRV bills in 2001, 2006 and 2008. (see footnote xxxi Kathy Dopp's Realities Mar Instant Runoff Voting - 17 Flaws and 3 Benefits
 
Maryland Senate Bill 292  (Senator Pinsky, et al.) Fiscal Note History February 14, 2006
 
Elections - Instant Runoff Method of Voting
This bill establishes an instant runoff method of voting intended to ensure majority rule in an election.
The bill takes effect January 1, 2007.
 
Fiscal Summary
State Effect: General fund expenditures would increase by roughly $11.1 million in FY2008 and $1.5 million in FY 2009, reflecting documentation revision, information technology, voter education, and election judge training development costs leading up to the 2008 presidential primary and general elections. General fund expenditures also would increase by $1.5 million in FY 2011 due to voter education costs prior to the 2010 gubernatorial elections. These estimates do not include costs that cannot be reliably estimated for additional staff to assist in the ballot counting process and additional voting machines possibly needed if allowing voters to rank candidates will cause significantly longer voting lines.
 
(Maryland had 3,135,773 registered voters on Jan 22, 2008  and 3,056,657 registered voters on Oct 17, 2006 )
 
 
 
Local Effect: Local election boards would experience increased expenditures due to
voter education and election judge training costs.
 
Current Law: All elections for State and federal office require a plurality of votes to
win. Currently, there is no requirement for candidates to receive a majority of all votes
cast in an election.
 
State Fiscal Effect: General fund expenditures would increase by roughly $11.1 million
in fiscal 2008, $1.5 million in fiscal 2009, and $1.5 million in fiscal 2011.
 
The software installed in the Diebold direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems
used statewide currently cannot support a ballot that would allow voters to rank
candidates for each office, as required by the instant runoff method. SBE is not aware of
currently available replacement software that could implement the instant runoff method.
Diebold has indicated it may have software available for the 2008 presidential elections
that would be available in the beginning of calendar 2008 at the earliest. SBE’s contract
with Diebold currently provides for software updates at no additional cost, and SBE
advises it is possible that software capable of implementing the instant runoff method
may be considered an update.
 
SBE estimates increased costs leading up to the 2008 elections as listed below (assuming
software to implement the instant runoff would be available in the beginning of calendar
2008 and would be provided by Diebold at no additional cost to the State):
 
Documentation revision $5,000,000
Agency IT costs 4,500,000
Voter education 3,000,000
Election judge training development 50,000
 
Total $12,550,000
 
The majority of these costs ($11,050,000) would occur in fiscal 2008, reflecting
documentation updates, IT costs, and voter education prior to the presidential primary
elections in early calendar 2008. Half of the voter education ($1,500,000) costs listed
above would occur in fiscal 2009 prior to the presidential general election.
Additional voter education costs of $1.5 million would be incurred in fiscal 2011, prior to
the 2010 gubernatorial primary and general elections.
 
Other costs, that cannot be reliably estimated, include a possible need for additional
contractual staff to assist in counting votes according to the instant runoff method and
possibly more voting machines if ranking candidates will cause voting lines to be
significantly longer.
 
Local Fiscal Effect: Local boards would experience increased expenditures primarily
due to voter education (in addition to SBE’s voter education costs) and election judge
training. Local boards likely would need additional staff or would need to hire a public
relations firm to assist with voter education. In addition, SBE recommends, as a part of
voter education, that a mandatory primary election specimen ballot mailer be sent to each
voter to allow them to determine how they will rank candidates prior to voting. Cost
estimates for mailing out specimen ballots among Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard,
Montgomery, Washington, and Wicomico counties range from $13,000 in Washington
County to $83,000 in Montgomery County.
 
SBE advises that election judge training has become more complex due to added security
requirements and Help America Vote Act mandates. Adding subject matter on the instant
runoff method to election judge training may increase time needed for training and
therefore compensation costs for the judges.
 
 
Maryland House Bill 1502  (Delegate Hixson)
This bill establishes an instant runoff method of voting intended to ensure majority rule in an election. The bill takes effect January 1, 2009.
 
Fiscal Summary
 
State Effect: General fund expenditures would increase significantly prior to the 2010 and 2012 elections to implement an instant runoff method of voting. Implementing thenew method of voting is anticipated to require revisions to various aspects of the electionmanagement process and a considerable voter outreach campaign to educate voters on the new method of voting. The extent of the increase in expenditures cannot be reliably estimated at this time.
 
Local Effect: Local election boards are expected to also experience increased expenditures for voter outreach and for election judge training costs.
 
State Fiscal Effect: General fund expenditures would increase significantly leading up to the 2010 elections to implement an instant runoff method of voting, with expenditureincreases expected to begin in fiscal 2009. General fund expenditures are also expected to increase prior to the 2012 elections for continued voter outreach and possibly furtherrevisions to documentation and SBE’s election management system. The increases incosts, however, cannot be reliably estimated at this time.
 
SBE indicates it is difficult to determine the full extent of the changes that would need to be made to accommodate the new method of voting, though such a change would require revisions to regulations and documentation used in the election process (including judges manuals and canvassing instructions), SBE’s election management system, and election
procedures. A considerable voter outreach campaign would also be required, likely including advertising through television, radio, and print media, direct mailing, and staff outreach to various organizations.
 
Local Fiscal Effect: Local boards are also expected to experience increased expenditures primarily due to voter education (in addition to SBE’s voter education costs) and election judge training. Local boards likely would need additional staff or would need to hire a public relations firm to assist with voter education. In addition, SBE recommends, as a part of voter education, that a mandatory primary election specimen ballot mailer be sent to each voter to allow them to determine how they will rank
candidates prior to voting.
 
SBE advises that election judge training has become more complex due to added security requirements and Help America Vote Act mandates. Adding subject matter on the instant runoff method to election judge training may increase time needed for training andtherefore compensation costs for the judges.
 

Prior Introductions: SB 292 of 2006, an identical bill, received an unfavorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

 

Minneapolis Actual and Continuing Costs  The continuing cost of Instant Runoff Voting in Minneapolis $244,000 “It is disturbing to me that we’re talking about an extra quarter of a million dollars for a system that was supposed to decrease our costs,” Johnson said.  Find the report at http://bit.ly/d5q2Y1

 
Minnesota Ranked Choice Voting Issues Group Voting Equipment Vendor Presentations to the
Technical Advisory Committee
Summary Notes Prepared by FairVote Minnesota

ES&S
November 27, 2007
Presented by Steve Bolton, Vice President Product Management
 
For Minneapolis
Current machines, ES&S M100 cannot tally IRV and likely cannot be adapted to do so.
Newer generation ES&S DS200 optical scanners are supposedly IRV capable, but IRV tallying software has not been developed yet. That would mean recertifying the entire voting system if IRV software was created for use with these machines.
 
$864,000 for 144 precinct machines  or $6,000/machines.  This is not including cost of software or firmware upgrades.
 
#
Instant Runoff Voting
Changing Current Systems
Election Systems & Software
 
First pass EAC federal certification costs $1 million .
Our last MN certification upgrade cost $200L for only a source code review.
Timelines for a small change through the EAC process now run ~ 12 months.
Medium changes can take up to ~18 months.
Large scale changes can take up to ~24 months. 
 

 
PIERCE COUNTY WASHINGTON.  Reporting actual costs of IRV for their first IRV election. From an official recap of their 2008 IRV election:
 
"It cost 2 million to implement an uncertified system for 375,589 votes - or $5.33 per registered voter! That is on top of the regular costs of their election system. And in two of the three races that used IRV to decided the "winner", the "winner" didn't get a majority of the first column votes cast! Now 2 out of 3 voters in Pierce County want to ditch IRV after their first election!" - comments Chris Telesca of No IRV for NC blog.

How much did it cost?
2008 General Election Costs $1,664,542
RCV One Time Costs $857,025 - Software, Education, Equipment
RCV Ongoing Costs $769,773 - Printing, Paper, Envelopes, Education, Staff
RCV Subtotal $1,626,798
Total Costs $3,291,340


The County needed an additional 4 more charter amendments to clarify the implementation of IRV before they could move forward.   In 2008 the county had to apply for Emergency/Provisional permission to use the new IRV capable voting machines.  The machines are still pending State and Federal Certification. During the certification it was determined that the Polling Place Tabulators (Insights) could not be used. The precinct scanners were "Not robust enough to handle RCV ballot image, would not support multiple precincts". As a result, Pierce adopted central counting of the ballots. They hred 114 Ballot Transporters and Ballot Processors and instituted 24 hour shifts to check in, visually scan and tabulate polling place ballots.  The county hired and trained over 600 staff. Officials worked "24 hours per day for one week to tabulate ballots followed by 17 hour days up to certification."
 
Other costs/complications included increased postage - there were two ballot papers, one regular ballot and one IRV ballot.  The county decided to pay the postage because they "did not want an extra stamp to be a deterrent to returning both ballots."
 
"...In January 2009, the Pierce County Council passed a Charter Amendment to repeal Ranked Choice Voting."
 

VERMONT. Vermont's Secretary of State ordered a feasibility study , found that their current voting machines could not handle IRV for statewide contests, and further that operational costs such as postage, ballot printing and voter education would increase.
 
2007 Report to the Vermont General Assembly by the Vermont Office of the Secretary of State  (Word document) Instant Runoff Voting (IRV): Administrative Implementation Options and Costs
 
"We are pleased to provide this summary of our research that identifies and assesses the implementation options and costs associated with the possible implementation of Instant Runoff Voting in Statewide elections in Vermont, in response to your letter of May 9, 2006.  This report does not include an assessment of the legal and policy issues surrounding a decision to implement IRV in Vermont’s statewide elections.
 
...This means that in non-Presidential election years up to 2 IRV races could be conducted with no additional costs for ballots.  However, for larger towns, in Presidential years and under other special circumstances, there would be additional costs associated with printing and shipping ballots and mailing absentee ballots.
 
Three to five races.  If 3 races are conducted in the IRV style, then every town would be required to have a two page ballot.  In certain towns (in a presidential year for towns with many Justices of the Peace or constitutional amendments) a third ballot page might be required.

Six to eight IRV races. If 8 IRV races are included, then we expect that at least 3 ballot pages would be needed in every town. 

...The shipping cost will double for a two page ballot, and triple for a three page ballot....

...Multiple page ballots will make it harder for some election officials and voters to keep the ballots straight.  For example, there will be situations where voters may not get every page (or with an absentee ballot – the voter will not return every page) and there will be situations where voters get the same page twice, or at the end of the day, the number of ballots don’t add up to the number of people who voted (some voted only one page and perhaps walked away with – or were not given the other pages). We know this from experience with elections that involve more than one ballot. 

... that if two races required the runoff count, it could take 28 working days; if three races required the runoff count, it could take 42 working days. . .  That being said, there are other more efficient ways to conduct the runoff count which we suggest in section 7 below which could reduce the runoff count time to less than 3 days for each runoff count race.

... Because of the Help American Vote Act of 2002 and the current controversies going on in other states and in Washington, D.C. involving voting systems and the requirements for such systems, the vendors are not sure what to develop or what to produce.  It is our opinion that it is highly doubtful that even the jurisdictions that are already under contract with a vendor or in negotiations will have an electronic tabulator capable of counting an IRV runoff tested and in place for 2008.

... The City of Burlington used the instant runoff process for the March 2006 Mayoral race with between 10,000 and 11,000 voters participating in the election.  LHS Associates provided technical assistance to the City officials at no cost both prior to the election and on election night in order to conduct the “pilot” election.  The City Elections Clerk reports that the city spent approximately $19,000 more than would have been spent for a standard election for consultant services, additional programming costs, and for voter education.

Appendices to the 2007 Report to the Vermont General Assembly by the Vermont Office of the Secretary of State     (PDF document) Instant Runoff Voting (IRV): Administrative Implementation Options and Costs


Look at San Francisco, the largest real life example of IRV in the United States:

San Francisco may not be paying for traditional runoff elections, but they have new costs. San Francisco’s new expenses include special voting software, special poll worker training, more laborious and costly recounts, and IRV related voter education costing about $1.87 per registered voter. San Francisco is also seeking a replacement voting system, and recently considered spending about $12 Million on Sequoia Voting machines.

San Francisco had 421,094 registered voters  in 2004, spent $776,000 on IRV related voter education , with $210,000 specifically allotted to the community organizations for their efforts. 700 public outreach events were held.  In Nov 2006, San Francisco had 418,285 registered voters. 

The proportion of voters who had prior knowledge of RCV was lower in 2005 (54%) than in the 2004 election for the Board of Supervisors (67%) according to An Assessment of Ranked-Choice Voting in the San Francisco 2005 Election

San Francisco’s higher expenses include special voting software, special poll worker training, more laborious and costly recounts, and IRV related voter education costing about $1.87 per registered voter. San Francisco recently agreed to purchase a new IRV capable voting system for $12 Million, four year contract for new Sequoia Voting machines.  If machines could not be used for some reason, the Elections Department estimates that it would cost $1 Million to hand count the ballots. (From  Recommendations of the Budget Analyst for Amendment of Budget Items 2007-2008)

In 2007-2008 , SF's annual average number of registered voters was 427,591. 
The annual number of outreach events to target communities 693
Annual number of educational presentations313
Annual number of educational presentation program attendees 43,981

Maybe IRV saves money, but there isn't a solid cost savings analysis using San Francisco's actual election department's net annual expenditures. From San Francisco's Budget Reports:

2000-2001 Actual   9,024,000
2001-2002 Actual  13,872,000 includes the cost of $1,322,849 for a runoff election & $150,000 due to litigation costs
2002-2003 Actual   8,610,553
2003-2004 Actual  15,204,781
2004-2005 Actual  10,400,868
2005-2006 Actual  11,930,228
2006-2007 Actual  10,062,052  (budget)  9,126,318
2007-2008 Actual 14,839,686  (budget) 19,809,917