Takoma Park Holds First Instant Run-off Vote Election in Maryland History

Published February 2nd 2007 in Baltimore Chronicle
The first-ever instant run-off vote election in Maryland was held in District 5, Takoma Park on January 30, in a special election to replace long-time city councilman Marc Elrich. By letting voters rank their choices, instant run-off voting, according to one advocate for this method, "frees voters to vote for what they want, not vote against what they fear." Its proponents believe this voting method is a democracy reform that will help put the "representative" back in representative democracy.

Three candidates waged campaigns for the seat in the Takoma Park election. Voters had the option of voting for their top two candidates, thereby ensuring a majority winner. The uncomplicated vote was conducted on paper. A total of 204 ballots were cast; the winning candidate, Reuben Snipper received 107 votes.

FairVote, the leading national advocacy group for instant runoff voting, is based in Takoma Park, as is the election watchdog group that advocates for voter-verified paper ballots, TrueVoteMD. A coalition of groups and individuals is currently working to bring IRV to the statewide level.

FairVote did a survey of voters and found widespread support for IRV. Preliminary results show that nearly 90% of those voting in the Takoma Park election found it easy to use, and the vast majority wanted it expanded to other elections.

Kevin Zeese is executive director of DemocracyRising.US and a co-founder of VotersForPeace.US. He was a Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Maryland in 2006.