Clarifying the Case for IRV

By Pamela C. Vavra
Published July 25th 2005 in Ashland Daily Tidings
Councilor Russ Silbiger’s questions regarding the proposed instant runoff voting charter amendment are ones that many voters may want to address before deciding whether to vote for or against it (if they get the chance).

But the question before council on Wednesday wasn’t whether IRV should be adopted, nor whether they should recommended it. Councilors were asked only if they would help provide an opportunity for voters to consider it. Hardesty and Hartzell were in the minority, it seems, in discerning the difference.

Whether or not Ashland would be able to implement IRV, if adopted, is indeed unclear. The state director of elections says it would require enabling legislation first; but since legislators never got the chance to hear the Buckley-sponsored IRV-enabling bill because it died in committee, more and more legal minds, including Ashland City Attorney Mike Franell (in a memo dated April 21 to the Charter Review Committee) are finding cause to disagree.

What is clear is that the Oregon State Constitution permits charter cities like Ashland to adopt their own voting methods, including preference voting, such as IRV.

It also is clear that until the state obtains and certifies the needed software (already available for existing equipment), implementation would require the city to conduct its own elections, an option most people would probably want to avoid. Therefore, the proposed amendment gives council the power to suspend implementation until it is technically feasible within the current system of county-conducted elections, and it can be done without excessive cost to the city.

I expect most Ashland voters will read the proposed measure carefully, and readily sign the petition to place it on the ballot, permitting further consideration by all.