Corvallis to look at instant runoff system for elections

By KYLE ODEGAR
Published April 2nd 2007 in Corvallis Gazette-Times
The Corvallis City Council voted unanimously Monday to support a state bill to allow local governments to choose an instant runoff system in elections for mayors or council members.

The council isnít ready yet to switch to instant runoff voting, even for Planning Commission and Historic Resources Commission appointments. That issue will be forwarded to the cityís Administrative Services Committee for further review.

ďIím not sure Iím in favor of having instant runoff voting in Corvallis. (But) Iím all in favor of local control, and this would give it to us,Ē said Councilor Hal Brauner during the councilís Monday meeting.

ďFor the mayor and council positions, it would take a vote of our citizens, it would take a change in our charter,Ē said City Manager Jon Nelson.

Councilor Mike Beilstein openly advocated for instant runoff voting. Under the system, various candidates are ranked by voters.

The Green Party has tried to get such a voting method adopted nationwide for the last few years, and the idea got much press during the last presidential election, when Ralph Nader seemed a possible spoiler for Democratic candidate John Kerry.

Beilstein said that if two candidates had similar views, the instant runoff system would eliminate splitting the vote between them and giving the election to a third candidate.

Under instant runoff voting, if one candidate receives a majority of the first-place votes, he or she is elected outright. If there is no majority among first-place votes, then the last-place candidate is removed from the election. The ballots cast for that candidate are recounted, with those votersí second-place choices added to the totals of the first-choice votes from the initial count. If there is still no majority, then the next-to-last-place candidate is removed, and the process continues.

Switching to such a system would mean more time for staff in tabulating council votes on appointments to city commissions, according to a city memo.

In other news, the city approved $379,580 as the social services funding for next yearís budget.

The United Way of Benton and Lincoln counties currently administers those funds for a 5 percent retainer.

Some councilors, however, questioned whether that organization should continue to do so. The nonprofit has promised more money in grants to local agencies than it can deliver.

The council also unanimously approved an Airport Industrial Park lease for Trillium Fiber Fuel, a new business that will use grass seed straw to create ethanol.

Councilor Patricia Daniels said the business, formed by an Oregon State University professor and former Hewlett-Packard workers, fits into the cityís goal of sustainability.

The company plans to put up two metal sheds, where it will initially produce 100,000 gallons of alternative fuel each year by tapping into the areaís agricultural base. In Linn County, for example, 150,000 tons of grass straw waste is produced each year, according to a memo by Corvallis Public Works Director Steve Rogers.

Trillium Fiber Fuels will pay about $3,600 per year for the acre of airport property on the three-year lease. It could be extended for up to two 10 year periods.

Kyle Odegard covers the city of Corvallis and Benton County government. He can be contacted at kyle.odegard@lee.net or 758-9523.

 
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Legislation and Litigation

  • HB 2638 Allows county or city to adopt instant runoff voting system for nomination or election of candidates to county or city office.