Making Democracy Work

Guiding Principles for RCV Elections

The following core election principles derive from a statement adopted by the League of Women Voters of the United States. The League believes that all elections should be

● Accessible
● Secure
● Accurate
● Transparent
● Timely
● Recountable
● Audited

We believe these principles should guide Maine election officials in the administration of the June primary election in 2018 -- our first statewide election using ranked choice voting.

Here's how these principles might apply to the June RCV election and provide guidance for future RCV practices:

1. Election Accessibility. This means that the voter registration and voting processes are free from unreasonable obstacles; that all voting procedures and instructions, including the ballot itself, are widely available, clear, and understandable to voters; that voters with voting questions receive appropriate assistance from clerks, wardens, and volunteers at the polling place; and that voters experiencing cognitive or physical disabilities have the same opportunity as other voters to vote their ranked-choice ballot privately and independently.

2. Election Security. This means that absentee ballot applications, ballots, voter rolls, and all related paper and electronic records are created, distributed, stored, and maintained so that no unauthorized person can tamper or interfere in any way, and that no records are inadvertently damaged, misplaced, delayed, or altered during the election process and through any recounts or audits.

3. Election Accuracy. This means that the voters' marks on ballots are read to correctly reflect the intention of the voter, that the mechanisms for tabulation and aggregation of separate ballots into an election result conform to the approach set forth in law and regulations, and that protocols are in place to detect and limit the effect of any human or mechanical errors, flaws, irregularities, loss of information, or discrepancies that diminish confidence in the process or affect the outcome of the election.

4. Election Transparency, Every step in the election process from the design of election procedures through the completion of recounts or audits must be visible to the public to the greatest extent possible, and any portions of the process not open to public inspection must be protected by appropriate security measures to ensure the integrity of election systems and materials. Any software, digital files, or electronic processing and transmission of election information shall be open to inspection, verification, and replication by the public using appropriate means including third-party software tools. Transparency shall be provided without delay.

5. Timely Election Results. The public should have sufficient and immediate information about the process of tabulating and aggregating ballots as the process is unfolding, including immediate progress reports, intermediate status, and publication of statewide first-rank vote recipients. Election administrators should create and implement a plan for tabulating and announcing the results recognizing that time is of the essence, and that any needless delay would be detrimental to public confidence in the results. Final election results must be certified within the time frame established under current law.

6. Recountable Elections. Consistent with existing recount principles, election officials should institute a plan that allows for complete, prompt, transparent, and accurate recounts -- including review of paper ballots -- in any race where the tabulated results show that small anomalies in the count could affect the ultimate outcome.

7. Election Audits. Ideally, within a short time after unofficial results are finalized, election administrators should perform a random audit of appropriate design and sufficient scope to verify Election Day tabulations and confirm public confidence in all aspects of the election administration including review of paper ballots. Although it does not appear likely in time for the 2018 primary and general elections, Maine should move toward implementing election audits as soon as possible.