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Press Release: Congressional Legislation on
Instant Runoff Voting

November 6, 2001

Press release – Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Contact:
Rob Richie
The Center for Voting and Democracy
www.fairvote.org
301.270.4616

RANKED BALLOTS IN THE UNITED STATES: PROVEN ELECTORAL REFORM GAINING SUPPORT

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS HOLDS AN ELECTION TODAY USING RANKED BALLOTS FOR CITY COUNCIL

REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR. INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO ENCOURAGE STATES  TO USE INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

Highlighting the growing support for ranked ballots (where voters give a ‘1’ to their first choice candidate, a ‘2’ to their second choice, and so on), U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Illinois) introduced legislation today creating incentives for states to adopt instant runoff voting for allocating electoral votes in their state. On the same day Cambridge, Massachusetts held an election for city council and school committee using choice voting, a ranked ballot system adopted in the city in 1941.

Instant runoff voting works like a regular runoff to find a majority winner, but with just one election. Voters mark their first-choice candidate, but also have the option of indicating their runoff choices. If no candidate gets a first-choice majority, a runoff can be conducted without calling the voters back for a second election -- voters whose favorite candidate is eliminated in the runoff have already indicated their alternate choices. The system is used to elect the mayor of London, the president of Ireland and the legislature of Australia.

Legislation has been introduced on instant runoff voting in more than a dozen states, including several bills that would convert to instant runoff voting for presidential elections. States have full authority over how they choose to allocate electoral votes. Rep. Jackson's legislation would provide full federal funding for modernizing election administration in states that chose to adopt instant runoff voting in presidential elections.

“Instant runoff voting represents the wave of the future in American elections. It solves problems that stifle participation and thwart majority rule:  wasted votes, spoiler candidacies and  being stuck with the lesser-of-two-evils,” said Rob Richie, Executive Director of the Center for Voting and Democracy, a national non-profit that studies and advocates for more democratic electoral systems.

Congressman Jackson declared “With IRV, our politics would take a strong step toward what democracy should be about: majority rule, providing voters with real choices, encouraging debate on issues and building coalitions among people."

Cambridge, Massachusetts has a 60-year tradition of using ranked ballots to elect its local leaders. Voters enjoy the ability to select their first, second and third choice, without any fear of wasting or splitting the vote. The nine-member council is elected by proportional representation. Any candidate that earns a ninth of the vote will win one of the nine seats, and any five candidates with a majority of the vote will win a majority of seats. The system is widely appreciated in the city, and results in higher turnout than comparable jurisdictions.

Instant runoff voting has recently been touted in Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s new book “A More Perfect Union” and Ted Halstead and Michael Lind’s new book “The Radical Center.” Those advocating instant runoff voting this year include Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger, USA Today, Vermont Governor Howard Dean, the Alaska Republican Party and California legislative leaders Robert Hertzberg and Kevin Shelley.

Weblinks:

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s political website
www.jessejacksonjr.org

Center for Voting and Democracy
www.fairvote.org

City of Cambridge Elections Division (and explanation of voting system)
www.ci.cambridge.ma.us/~Election/ www.ci.cambridge.ma.us/~Election/prop-voting.html

 
 
 
 
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Copyright © 2001 The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 901    Takoma Park, MD  20912
(301) 270-4616 ____ [email protected]