Legislature: Moeller pushing instant runoff bill

By Don Jenkins
Published February 14th 2004 in Vancouver Columbian
A Clark County legislator said Friday that he hopes hard-earned experience will help him prod through the state Senate a bill allowing Vancouver to experiment with instant runoff voting.

"I'm much more hopeful now," said state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver. "I know a little more about the process. I'm going to work it harder on the Senate side."

The House late Thursday voted 69-26 to approve House Bill 2669, which would let Vancouver be the one and only city to elect council members through instant runoff voting.

Used sparingly in the United States and not currently authorized by Washington law, the method lets voters rank candidates in order of preference.

Vancouver voters amended the city charter in 1999 to allow council members to be elected that way. The city needs permission from the Legislature before it can make a final decision on whether to move ahead.

The House passed similar legislation a year ago, but the bill faltered in the Senate, failing to win approval from that body's Government Operations and Elections Committee.

"I really didn't know how to go about working the bill last year because I was new," said Moeller, who took office last year.

This year's legislation would apply to Vancouver only and authorize the city to test the system for five years.

Clark County lawmakers Tom Mielke, R-Battle Ground; Marc Boldt, R-Hockinson; Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama; and Bruce Chandler, R-Sunnyside, voted against the bill.

"It allows a second or third choice to win," Mielke said.

Under instant runoff voting, all candidates for a nonpartisan city council position would appear on the general election ballot, eliminating the primary.

Voters would rank candidates. If no candidate won a majority of "first-choice" votes, the last-place finisher would be eliminated and the "second-choice" votes of that candidate awarded.

The process goes on until a candidate gains a majority of votes.