THE BLOG

Instant Runoff Voting News: IRV a Hit in Twin Cities, in Media, on Campus and in the UK

Dec 18, 2009 | Updated May 25, 2011

Here's an excerpt from the FairVote Reformer for December 2009 focused on instant runoff voting.

Elections on November 3rd marked a big advance for instant runoff voting (IRV) in Minnesota, where IRV was adopted by voters in St. Paul and implemented successfully in Minneapolis in elections for mayor, city council and other offices. Given the impressive support built for IRV by FairVote Minnesota, Minnesota may well be the first state to adopt this ranked choice voting form of majority voting for statewide elections. A post-election poll found strong majority support IRV in Minneapolis and even strong support for adopting it for statewide partisan elections that regularly have strong challengers from more than the two major parties - support jumped more than 10% after voters experience IRV directly. As Minnesota state senator Mee Moua, one of the first members of the Hmong community to win office in the United States, said this year, "The effects of IRV are huge, and I believe it is one of the best changes in our voting system since the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

Hendersonville (NC) held its second instant runoff voting election last month, with the strong backing of the local League of Women Voters. An exit poll conducted by the State Board of Elections and NC State University's Michael Cobb found a majority support for keeping IRV over traditional runoffs in Hendersonville and supported it 51% to 20% for statewide elections. For a full review of IRV ballot measures and implementations last month, see my post-election blog post.

IRV keeps gaining support in interest in more cities across the country. In California, the New America Foundation, Californians for Electoral Reform and Alameda County League of Women Voters (see its recent strong oped) are working hard to keep implementation of IRV on track in Oakland and Berkeley in 2010, getting a big boost from an effective county elections supervisor and certification of the IRV tabulation system by Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Sacramento's charter commission is debating IRV seriously, and interest keeps growing in Los Angeles. Across the country in New York City, I testified before a New York state senate committee on the merits of Sen. Liz Krueger's legislation to establish a pilot program for IRV and, in particular, the case for replacing New York City's citywide primary runoffs with IRV. Sen. Krueger made her case for reform on the steps of City Hall.

John Anderson
's pre-election commentary on the case for IRV for statewide partisan elections ran in major dailies in cities like Albany, Baltimore and Miami. John focused on the multi-candidate race for governor in New Jersey, where post-election polls showed nearly half of the independent candidate Chris Daggett's supporters abandoned him out of fear of wasting their vote - and still ended up with a non-majority winner. With growing frustration with politics as usual, expect a big uptick in strong third party and independent challenges, as indeed was reflected in November's special U.S. House race in upstate New York (where the Republican nominee in fact became the "spoiler") and in upcoming gubernatorial races in Nevada and Massachusetts, where independent candidates are polling above 30%. Keep an eye on new reform energy like Voter Choice Massachusetts and get involved in your state.

Overseas, the British government continues to move toward a national referendum to adopt IRV for elections to the House of Commons - the first national referendum of any sort in the United Kingdom in decades. IRV was used for the recent Labour Party leadership elections in Wales, where candidates worked hard for both first choices and second choices. On January 23rd, Sri Lanka will use IRV (with two rankings, and winning candidates required to finish in the top two in first choices) in presidential elections.

Meanwhile, college students keep embracing IRV, with the number of colleges and universities with IRV surpassing 55 - recent additions include Bates, Cornell, Pfizer, Northeastern and Williams, with students at MIT and Cornell among those using IRV to elect student members to their college's governing boards of trustees. Ranked voting (in forms based on allocating points) was used in recent razor-thin contests for the Heisman Trophy and National League Cy Young. But of course the big non-governmental election news for IRV in the coming news will be the Oscars where classic IRV will be used for the first time since the era of Casablanca for best picture as part of the Academy's shift to having ten nominees.

Recent Notable IRV Media

John Nichols in The Nation Magazine, quoting Rob Richie: "A Real Vote Fix"

FairVote's John Anderson in Baltimore Sun: "Plurality voting is the Real Spoiler"

The Citizen Union's DeNora Getachew and Andrea Senteno in the Gotham Gazette: "Is New York Ready for Instant Runoffs?"

Rochester (MN) city councilor Michael Wojcik in the Rochester Post-Bulletin: "Instant Runoff Voting Will Save Money, Insure Fairness:

New America Foundation's Blair Bobier in Oregonlive.com: "Better and Cheaper Elections for Vancouver"

Blair Bobier in Sacramento Bee: "Instant Runoff: Better choice, lower cost"

California Assemblyman Ted Lieu explains his support for IRV on video

New books touting IRV include: Wayne Allyn Root's The Conscience of a Libertarian and Theresa Amato's Grand Illusion