Proposed language for ranked-voting to include in a Request for Proposal (RFP) for voting equipment

[Note: this RFP language assumes that a ballot tally algorithm dealing with such things as skipped rankings, duplicate rankings, exhausted ballots, etc. will be included as an appendix with the RFP. It is suggested that the appendix consist of the ranked-voting ordinance (chapter 167) adopted by the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota available at]

System ready: 
The system shall be ready, with all necessary federal and state certified hardware and software to implement ranked choice voting that allows voters to mark and have their ballots recorded according to the specific needs of ranked choice voting methods and be able to tabulate votes according to the specific algorithms of ranked choice voting methods as described in Appendix XX. This readiness shall apply to single-seat ranked-choice voting, known as "instant runoff voting," by June 30, 2011, and to multi-seat "single transferable vote" contests no later than June 30, 2013. 

Able to combine ballot styles:  The system shall be ready to use ballots containing both ranked-choice contests and vote-for-one or vote-for-up-to-N contests and ballot questions on the same ballot card no later than June 30, 2013.

Error correction:  The system should have error correction options, which can be switched on or off individually, to reject ballots that give the same ranking to more than one candidate, or give one candidate more than one ranking, or skip rankings. A vote capture device that has limits in such error correction flexibility may be considered so long as it can, at a minimum, reject ballots that give more than one candidate a first choice ranking.

Capture individual ballot records:  The voting system must enable voters to give a unique ranking to every candidate and at least as many write-ins as seats to be elected. The vote capture/recording module of the system should securely and anonymously capture and store a record or "ballot image" showing every choice or ranking made by each voter on his/her ballot, and export these individual ballot records in a common database format, such as a comma delimited text file, that can be tabulated according to the voting method algorithm of the jurisdiction by the system as well as by independent software that can read such files. These records should represent true ballot markings that include all choices made by the voter, whether or not they are valid.  Thus, for example, the ballot record should not include a generic over-vote code, but should instead indicate the two or more candidates that were selected for that ranking, causing an over-vote. The ballot image records must include precinct and machine identifiers to allow for manual audits of the results. A vote capture device that has limits in the number of rankings that can be practically allowed, due to number of read heads, ballot layout requirements, etc. may be considered, so long as the voter is able to make at least three (3) rankings in each ranked-choice contest. Such a limited system shall be modified to allow at least twelve (12) rankings in each contest, no later than June 30, 2013.

Printing precinct totals:  The vote capture device should be able, at the close of polls, to print out the total number of each ranking cast for each candidate in each contest.  If the system cannot print out the total of all rankings, it shall, at a minimum, print out the total of first-choice rankings of ballots cast using that machine.

RCV tallying module:  The system shall include, by June 30, 2011, a ranked-choice vote tabulation module for tallying the votes to determine the winners, that complies with the algorithms included with this RFP in Appendix XX. The tallying algorithm shall be able to produce round-by-round reports that include information on over-votes, under-votes and exhausted ballots.

Certification and Phase-in: The Proposer is responsible for obtaining all necessary Federal and State certifications and approvals for the New System, so that the New System is fully certified, approved and tested in time to be implemented for the any election conducted on or after January 1, 2010. The Proposer must obtain all certifications and approvals, including but not limited to final certification by the SOS, no later than January 1, 2010 (the "Certification Date"). If the system does not meet all of the ranked-choice voting capabilities listed in this RFP (not just the minimum requirements), then it shall be modified to do so and be fully certified by the dates indicated in the chart below, at no additional expense.

Summary chart
showing date by which various tested and certified functionalities should be achieved and available for use:

DATE                   FUNCTIONALITY
Upon delivery    standard election functions
6/30/2011           ranked-ballot capture and tabulation for single-seat offices (IRV)
6/30/2011          allowing at least three rankings per contest
6/30/2013          combining both ranked and non-ranked contests on the same ballot card
6/30/2013          allowing at least 12 rankings per contest
6/30/2013          ranked-ballot capture and tabulation for multi-seat offices (STV)