Los Angeles Studies
San Francisco's Instant Runoff
With an eye towards its own
expensive runoff elections, the Los Angeles City Council voted in
late May to study the instant runoff voting system recently approved
for San Francisco elections.
The Los Angeles Daily
on the vote.
The resolution, introduced by Councilmember
Tom LaBonge and seconded by Councilmember Eric Garcetti, reads as
Thanks to Denise Munro Robb, Evelyn Jerome and Bill
Pietz for relentlessly lobbying the Los Angeles City Council on this issue.
Proposition 41, the Voter Modernization Bond
Act of 2002, was recently enacted by the voters of California. The
bond provides $200 million in state matching funds for County
governments to modernize their election equipment.
County has some of the oldest and most error-prone election
equipment of anywhere in the state. Our decades-old machines use the
same punch card technology that caused so much confusion in the
presidential elections for the State of Florida.
The passage of
Proposition 41 provides the City and County of Los Angeles with an
opportunity to have an important discussion about the way we carry
out elections, including both the equipment we use and the
procedures we follow.
It is essential that we have this discussion
sooner rather than later, especially in consideration of a lawsuit
filed against the State of California and County of Los Angeles by
the ACLU. As part of the settlement, the County agreed to replace
all of its punch card machines in time for the 2004 presidential
There is more than one type of voting machine system
that can be chosen to replace our 20,000 Votomatics. Optical
scanners are more accurate than our existing equipment and are
slightly cheaper than computer models but are too limited in the
options they offer and require high printing costs.
systems are more pricey than optical models but have no printing
costs involved and have the added benefit of being able to offer
ballots in multiple languages and for all political parties. Los
Angeles County has already conducted a successful touch screen
voting pilot program in conjunction with the November 2000 election
in which over 20,000 voters were able to vote up to two weeks before
the election at select sites throughout the County.
In addition to
modernizing voting equipment we also have the opportunity to use
these new technologies to improve our existing voting system. One
idea worth considering is adopting some form of instant runoff
voting, as was enacted recently by the City of San Francisco for its
elections beginning this November. This idea appears particularly
attractive when it comes to special elections, as it would greatly
speed up the process by which empty seats are filled. Instant
runoffs would also save millions of dollars in City election costs
by eliminating the need for a second round of voting and might
increase turnout by consolidating two separate votes into one.
THEREFORE MOVE that the CLA and City Clerk report to the Rules and
Elections Committee in the next 60-90 days on the City’s plans for
voter modernization in light of the recent passage of Proposition
41, including the feasibility of enacting some form of instant
runoff voting, making sure to address the topic of special elections
and including an estimate as to the potential for cost-savings.
FURTHER MOVE that the County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk be
invited to attend this session and report on their plans for voter
modernization using Proposition 41 funds.