In Our View - A Different Way to Vote

By Editorial writers
Published November 26th 2006 in The Columbian

On Nov. 7, 53 percent of voters in Pierce County (Tacoma) approved Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in county races except for judges and prosecutor, starting in 2008. Sound familiar? That's the same direction -- even by the same percentage -- that Vancouver voters issued in 1999 when they amended the city charter to allow IRV for electing the mayor and city council members. And last year, the Legislature approved such a pilot program in Vancouver. However, Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said on Friday that Vancouver City Council members have given him no recent indication that they are moving in that direction.

The urgency here is not great but Vancouver council members should revisit the issue of Instant Runoff Voting, remind themselves of its advantages, and study how Pierce County implements IRV.

One of the main advantages of IRV is that it eliminates a primary. And because voters rightly lament the death of our state's blanket primary and its cross-over voting, the appropriateness of IRV becomes stronger. Under IRV, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If the leading candidate receives less than 50 percent (plus one) of the votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated and people who voted for that candidate have their second-ranked choices counted. Elimination of lower candidates continues until a leading candidate reaches at least 50 percent plus one vote.

Kimsey is not overly fond of IRV but says he is willing to follow the direction of the voters and the Vancouver City Council. There's momentum elsewhere to the north. The Seattle Times on Friday quoted Richard Anderson-Connolly, University of Puget Sound professor: "King County is now the focus in the state for the IRV battle." He said that if Pierce and King counties approve IRV, the rest of the state will follow.

There has been little mention of IRV in Clark County in the past year, but with momentum building in the north, Vancouver city council members should at least be paying attention, if not formulating a plan to try the system.