The ballot issue they arenít talking about

By Katie Klingsporn
Published October 27th 2008 in The Daily Planet
With all the hullabaloo stirred up by the four local tax increase issues — the advertisements and signs, public forums and e-mail blasts, letters to the editor and coffee shop discussions — the little local ballot question about voting seems to have been pushed to the periphery.

But Question 202 is still there, waiting quietly to ask town voters if they would like to implement instant runoff voting — which strives to award a full majority in three-way races — in Telluride’s mayoral races.

“It’s kind of a sleeper,” says Chris Myers of the public advocacy group This Republic Can. Myers and Ernest Eich collected the 130 verified signatures needed to put the initiative on the ballot.

Myers said the lack of attention could be because Question 202 doesn’t come with a dollar figure.
Or maybe, he said, it’s just not generating much attention because people agree with it.

“I’m hopeful in some ways the lack of discussion is a sign of a lack of controversy,” Myers said.

But he doesn’t want voters to forget about it or come to the polls unfamiliar. He doesn’t want to see it drowned in din of the other questions and referendums and amendments that make up this year’s lengthy ballot.

Myers says instant runoff voting, or IRV, can help ensure a true majority and eliminate the spoiler effect that sometimes takes place in a three-way race. IRV allows voters to rank candidates when more than two people are vying for an elected office. If nobody receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is tossed out, and those votes are redistributed according to ranking.

Last November, Stu Fraser was elected Telluride’s mayor in a three-way race that saw him edging out Terry Tice by less than 20 votes. Many speculated afterward how the votes won by Chance Leoff affected the race.

Supporters of IRV aren’t contesting the results of the last mayoral race, Myers said, they want to improve three-way elections in the future.

He said Instant Runoff Voting is a non-partisan issue, and cited national elections — the 1992 election between George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, or the 2000 election between George W. Bush, Al Gore and Ralph Nader — that have affected either side.

“Basically, it favors the people,” Myers said.

Instant Runoff Voting has been adopted by cities like San Francisco, Burlington, Vt., Sarasota, Fla., and more locally, Aspen and Basalt.

When Aspen passed IRV, it passed with an overwhelming majority of 76 percent. Myers said he would like to think Telluride would have a similar sentiment.

The ordinance proposes a trial run for three mayoral cycles. During that run, the town council would not be able to overturn it, and after three years, the town can decide if it wants to continue IRV or not.

When he informally asked people who voted early about the question, Myers said, many called it a “no-brainer.”

“It does represent change in the way of voting, but change is good,” he said. “I really helps the people get a better sense of what the will of the people would be.”

For more information about instant runoff voting, go to fairvote.org orwww.burlingtonvotes.org. To watch an animated short that explains how IRV works, go to Youtube, search for “instant runoff voting” and click on the first item that pops up.
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