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Historic Primary Election in Arizona

// Published February 2, 2008 in Third Party Watch
The Arizona Libertarian Party is one of three fully ballot qualified political parties in the state and therefore legally entitled to participate in the presidential preference primary election proceedings on Super Tuesday. Unlike the Democratic and Republican parties, Arizona Libertarians aren’t conducting their election process in the traditional polling booths or at taxpayer expense.

“This is believed to be the first time in U.S. history that a state-wide election has been held via the Internet, only,” stated party chairman Michael Kielsky in a press release.

Additionally, Maricopa County election officials have estimated that the Libertarian Party election will save “Arizona taxpayers over a million dollars by sparing them the costs of printing, distributing, collecting and counting Libertarian ballots.”

I spoke with Kielsky on the telephone a couple of hours ago. When asked how much this online election will cost the Arizona Libertarian Party, he responded “about a grand.”

Consistent with libertarian philosophy, Arizona Libertarians don’t feel that others should be forced to pay for their internal party functions.

Glitches and Security

Since one may already vote in the online Arizona primary, I asked Kielsky about technical glitches and security issues they may have already encountered. He did report a couple of minor technical problems which they were able to immediately resolve.

The general online process requires Arizona voters to provide certain personal data, such as their name, year of birth and zip code. This is matched with voter registration data, which the Arizona Libertarian Party has obtained from county election officials. Votes where the online registration data doesn’t match official election information won’t be counted, according to Kielsky.

I found one potential security hole, but Kielsky wasn’t specific on how they intend to handle this issue. I suspect, based on the precise wording of his answer, that they have a plan in place but he didn’t wish to elaborate on it.

Being the first time (of which I’m aware) that this sort of electronic election has taken place, there will certainly be a few glitches and security holes to be repaired. However, this also represents a bold move forward with respect to electoral politics. At least Arizona Libertarians are leading the way with respect to major modifications of our electoral system.

Ranked Choice Voting

Arizona Libertarians believe this is the first time that Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), perhaps better known as Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV), has been used in a U.S. statewide election. From their release:

With RCV, voters rank as many candidates as they like, in order of preference, instead picking only one. Kielsky explained, “This method works well when there are many candidates. Unlike common ‘winner-take-all’ elections, the candidate with the most first-choice votes doesn’t necessarily win the election. For example, if first choice votes are spread evenly among many candidates, but one of these candidates has significantly more of the second-choice votes, that candidate would win. It’s a fairer method than ‘winner-take-all’ because the results better reflect the desires of the voters.” Many public interest groups, including The League of

Women Voters of Arizona and FairVote AZ, are actively seeking election reform based on RCV. RCV is used in several countries, including Australia and Ireland, in many U.S. jurisdictions including San Francisco, CA, and a ballot initiative to enact RCV is underway in Glendale, AZ.

One visiting the sample ballot webpage can easily see how this works. There are thirteen candidates on the list, which includes Daniel Imperato, George Phillies, Barry Hess, Bob Jackson, Christine Smith, Alden Link, Steve Kubby, Dave Hollist, Robert Milnes, Jim Burns, John Finan, Wayne Root and Michael Jingozian. By voting for none of the candidates, one is selecting the traditional LP candidate named NOTA. There is also a spot available to write in your own candidate, and I suspect Ron Paul will pick up quite a few votes in this category.

My understanding (I can’t check it out without providing fraudulent voter information) is that the final ballot did not include Robert Milnes’ name, as his party status may be questionable due to a lack of recent payment of party dues.

Arizona Libertarians Can Already Begin Voting

From their release:

Registered Arizona Libertarians may participate in the election by logging onto the election website at www.LPelection.com. The site will authenticate the voters and then accept their votes online. A hotline for anyone encountering problems, or without Internet access, has been established at (800) 875-7369.

The online polls will open at 9 AM on January 30, 2008 and close at 7 PM on February 5, 2008. The results will guide Arizona’s Libertarian delegates, who will participate in selecting the Libertarian Presidential nominee at the national convention to be held from May 22-26, 2008 in Denver, CO.