I listened to the March 1 City Council meeting discussing the ordinance wording and implementation implications. I was shocked at the extreme level of confusion expressed on the part of city staff, city attorneys and city council members regarding every aspect of the RCV implementation. There appeared to be wide gaps in knowledge on how ordinance wording affected ballot instructions and ballot tabulation procedures. There was confusion if the city charter would need to be amended later if ordinance wording was too specific about the number of ranked choices allowed. There was even confusion if the city charter allowed write-in candidates for any type of municipal election process, let alone how to include write-ins for RCV and whether recount procedures applied to which rounds of RCV tabulation. One of the more alarming issues brought up was the expectation that result tabulation would rely on manual tabulation using Excel workbooks and sheets.
Given the obvious complexity of the RCV implementation, is the city planning to hire additional staff that has subject matter expertise to ensure RCV can be implemented on time and without serious errors? The City’s current staff is fully capable of implementing RCV on time and without serious errors. There are no plans to hire additional staff related to RCV.
Given the highly manual tabulation process, is the city planning to hire additional staff or temporary election workers to tabulate in a timely process? The City plans to have a portion of the election judges who are hired for early voting and Election Day responsibilities, stay on for a few additional days to complete the tabulation process under the direction of the City Clerk. However, this same group of election judges will have worked fewer days earlier in the process because there will no longer be a primary election in odd-numbered years. We expect the cost savings of not having a primary to outweigh any additional costs for staff time to tabulate results after the November election.
Given that manual processes are prone to error, how often will the city conduct election audits to validate election integrity? No decisions have been made yet regarding election audits.
Is the city planning to hire additional staff or temporary election workers to run these audits? See answer to previous question.
Given the advantages of using technology to tabulate RCV votes, what the cost to acquire, install and support RCV tabulation systems? The City is working with other Minnesota cities who use RCV to explore tabulation software options. We do not yet know what the cost of those will be, or whether they will be determined to be better than the other available tabulation methods. Other Minnesota cities who use RCV have tabulated their election results effectively and efficiently through multiple election cycles, without specific tabulation software. I am confident the City of Bloomington can do the same.
Has the city considered what the anticipated one-time and/or annual costs would be required to mitigate the issues listed above? Yes, costs have been considered. The adopted 2021 budget for elections was developed after the RCV ballot measure was passed and is expected to be sufficient to cover the costs of the 2021 election. If, in the future, a tabulation software solution is identified it could be acquired using existing budgetary resources or by presenting a request to the City Council for additional funding.
City analysis estimated $105,000 annual savings by switching to RCV. How will the city justify to and be transparent with residents about potential significant added costs that undercut the primary catalyst for putting RCV on the ballot in the last election? Saving money was not the primary catalyst for putting RCV on the ballot. Regardless, the City will be transparent about the costs of operating elections using RCV. Budgets are approved by the City Council each year, in a public forum, and are available on the City’s website. The same is true for annual audits of the City’s expenditures after a budget year is complete.
Has the city put any benchmarks or key performance indicators into place that would require the council to discuss putting a measure on the ballot to rescind or replace RCV if RCV elections repeatedly fail to meet financial performance standards? No, there has been no discussion about if or when a ballot measure to rescind or replace RCV would be undertaken. The City Council and staff are focused on implementing RCV as adopted by the voters. Secondly, while the City strives to be effective and efficient in all of the services it provides, financial performance standards are not the only measure by which the City Council will evaluate the use of RCV.