Urbana group seeking switch to instant runoff voting

By Paul Wood
Published October 2nd 2007 in The News-Gazette
URBANA – A proposal on the way Urbana conducts its mayoral and aldermanic elections could be on the Feb. 5, 2008, ballot.

Citizens for Instant Run-off Voting – a group of about 15 volunteers – filed petitions with the Urbana city clerk's office Friday to hold a binding referendum asking voters whether they would like to change from single plurality to instant runoff voting for elected city positions.

The petition drive was conducted from June 1 to Sept. 28, said Durl Kruse, a leader of the movement. The volunteers collected 1,062 signatures. By statute, 766 are required.

Instant runoff voting allows voters to rank the candidates for a specific office in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

The second-choice votes on these ballots are then retabulated and added to the remaining candidates' totals until one candidate reaches the 50 percent threshold, Kruse said.

Urbana City Clerk Phyllis Clark said that in her experience, a binding resolution needed city council action. But Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden said recent precedents mean resolutions can be binding even without going to a city council.

Clark said she would examine the signatures to make sure they are legitimate. She said she has until Nov. 19 to put the question on the ballot. "It's is my intent to have this question certified by Oct. 22," she said.

The ballot question asks whether the voters of the city of Urbana wish Article II of the Urbana Code of Ordinances to read, in part: "the election process for election of mayor, city council members, and other elected city officers shall be conducted by adopting and authorizing instant run-off voting and repealing conflicting statutes."

Kruse said changing the instant run-off method of voting could benefit third parties such as the Greens.

In other situations, Shelden said, the idea has been brought up as a way to save taxpayer money by eliminating primary elections.