Instant runoff voting (IRV), the ranked choice voting method that generates majority winners in a single round of voting, has garnered rapidly rising support this year. On July 18, the city council of Oakland (CA) voted 6-2 to place IRV on the November 7th ballot, replacing their June primary and November runoff with one high turnout majority election in November.
On July 19, the North Carolina state senate passed legislation (H1024)
with bipartisan support to use IRV for statewide elections for judicial
office vacancies and to let 10 cities and 10 counties try IRV in
2007-2008. If passed, this legislation would represent the first
statewide IRV elections in the modern era.
These advances come as interest in IRV expands nationally. IRV will be
on the ballot in cities and counties with a combined population of 1.6
million people this November, including Minneapolis (MN), Davis (CA),
and Pierce County (WA). The proliferation of reformer campaigns across
the country follow highly successful IRV elections for San Francisco’s
city elections, and a widely praised mayoral race in Burlington, (VT).
Exit polls in both San Francisco and Burlington showed voters preferred
IRV to their old runoff systems by margins of at least three to one.
According to FairVote executive director Rob Richie, “Interest in
instant runoff voting is growing rapidly. More cities and states see
IRV as a viable means to save tax dollars, accommodate voters having
choices and fold low-turnout elections into high-turnout, spoiler-free
National backers of IRV include leaders from both major parties:
Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean regularly speaks out in
favor of IRV, Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain
boosted Alaska’s campaign for IRV in 2002 and Sen. Barack Obama
introduced IRV legislation as a state senator in Illinois. Former
Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic will play a lead role in backing
the IRV campaign in Pierce County this year.
In addition to resolving the controversy over third party candidates
being “spoilers,” IRV simply solves problems. In 2004, North Carolina
held a runoff election for the Democratic nomination for Superintendent
of Public Instruction. The election cost counties $3.5 million dollars,
for a turnout of only 2 to 3% of voters. IRV would have avoided a
second election, without this drop in turnout. Meanwhile, Oakland spent
over $250,000 between the primary and general elections in 2000, and
most candidates win offices in the low-turnout primaries without even
having to face the bigger November electorate.
With IRV, instead of marking an "X" next to one candidate, voters rank
them in order of preference. IRV uses voter rankings to emulate a
series of runoff elections ultimately determining a winner with a
majority of the vote. IRV saves time and money by eliminating the need
and cost of two rounds of voting. Voters and candidates also can focus
their energy on one election rather than two, typically boosting
IRV is used in dozens of colleges and universities across the country.
To seek comment on these issues, contact Ryan O’Donnell at (301)
270-4616. For more information, visit www.fairvote.org/irv