State should pass instant-runoff bill,
allowing preference voting in local races
Ever dream of voting for your first,
second and third favorite candidates on the ballot, rather than
limiting your preferences to just one?
You may get to in local, nonpartisan
races before the end of the decade.
Lawmakers, thanks to state Rep. Jim
Moeller, D-Vancouver, have a chance to approve a piece of
legislation that could bring long-term savings to Vancouver, as well
as more efficient, less divisive elections.
Instant-runoff voting, a method of
voting that a majority of 1999 Vancouver voters said they would like
to try, has never been used in a Washington city or county because
state law prefers the traditional winner-takes-all method.
Politicians should remove that hurdle with Moeller's House Bill
2669. The bill directs the secretary of state to conduct a pilot
project in a willing, eligible city by 2007. Vancouver would likely
be that city, given its prior yearning for instant-runoff voting.
Voters would rank candidates
Here's how instant-runoff voting
In a local, nonpartisan race (which
so many city and county offices are), voters would rank candidates
as their first, second, third (and so on) choices, rather than
casting a single vote for a top favorite.
The point is to allow qualified
candidates to rise to the top while weeding the weaker ones out, and
thereby assuring that more people are comfortable with the end
If a candidate gets the majority of
votes under this system, he or she would be the clear winner. But if
no one candidate received a majority of votes, the last place
candidate would be eliminated. Then, the people who gave their
first-place ranking to that eliminated candidate would have their
second-place ranking counted instead. A winner is eventually
determined by eliminating candidates with weak support and
transferring second- or third-tier votes to stronger candidates.
The beauty of this system is that it
would eliminate primaries in local, nonpartisan races. And
eliminating primaries, leaves communities with only a general
election to finance. While the start-up costs for such a system in
Vancouver are estimated at $30,000 to $50,000, a long-term savings
Proponents of preference voting also
say that more people end up satisfied with the final election
result, as each person's vote isn't an all-or-nothing prospect. Only
time would tell if this would be the case here, but we ought to give
it a try.
HB 2669 was passed by the House
Thursday. Now it goes to the Senate. There is a fiscal impact of the
bill to the state of $36,000. The money is needed to conduct the
pilot project and create a follow-up report about its success or
failure. In tight economies, senators should rightly be concerned
about this extra cost. But Moeller's bill allocates the expenditure
for the 2007-2009 general fund budget, which allows the state to
whatis2.htm for more information on instant-runoff