New system would eliminate costly runoff elections

By Rep. John Kefalas, Rick VanWie and Julie Connor
Published May 27th 2007 in Rocky Mountain News
Election Day is an important hallmark of freedom. Our democracy and our cities, counties and state are strengthened by the electorate expressing its will at the voting booth.

However, even this centerpiece of American liberty needs to be occasionally evaluated. Our elected officials should always be looking at ways to make voting more meaningful and effective while reducing costs to the taxpayers.

The recent elections in Denver point to the need for reform. Between the November 2006 election and the May 1, 2007, election, Denver citizens were asked to cast ballots three times. Additionally, in three City Council districts, electors will be asked to vote again in a runoff round.

Each of these elections costs the taxpayers money, while at the same time voter turnout decreases with each round.

One way to fix this problem is an advanced voting system called Instant Runoff Voting. With IRV there is no need for a second election.

IRV is easy for voters to use. Instead of only selecting one candidate in a contest where there are three or more candidates, the electors may rank them in order of preference. The votes are tabulated, if any one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, that person is declared the winner. If there is no majority winner, then the candidate who received the fewest votes is eliminated. For all of the electors who voted for the eliminated candidate as their first choice, their second choice is counted. This process guarantees a majority winner without a runoff, while still ensuring “one person, one vote.”

In partisan contests it can help prevent the “spoiler” effect when a third-party or unaffiliated candidate is running. IRV will allow such contenders to enrich the marketplace of ideas while addressing the “spoiler” effect.

Here in Colorado, a major effort to investigate how IRV and other advanced voting methods could be applied is about to begin. The 11-member, multipartisan Voter Choice Interim Task Force, chaired by Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, with the assistance of the secretary of state’s office will examine various relevant topics, including how other states and local jurisdictions are using advanced voting methods. The task force will then make its recommendations to the 2008 General Assembly. Interested individuals can contact Kefalas at 303-866-4569 or Rick VanWie at 303-478-1009.

Advanced voting methods can save taxpayer money and promote greater voter participation because they enfranchise voters by allowing them opportunities to vote their values and conscience. State and local governments across the U.S. are either studying advanced voting methods or adopting them, specifically IRV. Colorado is now part of this movement.

John Kefalas represents House District 52 in the Colorado General Assembly. Rick VanWie is a former candidate for Colorado secretary of state. Julie Connor is a senior analyst for Denver City Councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie.