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Summary of S.22 - Instant Runoff Voting for statewide elections

The bill covers the elections of Attorney General, Auditor of Accounts, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Lieutenant Governor, Governor, U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and Electors for U.S. Vice President and U.S. President.

In the case where, under existing election laws, there would be no majority winner, instead, a runoff count is conducted between the top two candidates.  This instant runoff retabulation of ballots avoids the need for a second election to discover which candidate is actually preferred by the majority of voters.  Put in the negative, Instant Runoff Voting assures that a candidate the majority of voters oppose is not inadvertently declared elected.  In the case of election for governor, lieutenant governor, and treasurer, where the state constitution imposes a majority requirement, the instant runoff would provide the legislative canvassing committee with information about which candidate is preferred by the majority.  If there were still no majority, the full legislature would proceed to elect a governor, Lt. governor or treasurer, as set forth in section 47 of the constitution.

The ballot for statewide elections is slightly redesigned to allow a voter to rank candidates in order of preference.  (The Secretary of State is authorized to limit the number of rankings to first, second and third, if the available space on the ballot is limited.)  Voters have the option to rank candidates, but are not required to do so.  Voters can mark ballots in exactly the same manner as in the past.  There is no change in the conduct of the election.  Local election officials will count first-choice votes only, in the same manner as in the past, whether by hand or machine.

When the existing statewide canvassing committee (one member from each major party)  meets with the Secretary of State, as under current law, they prepare a certificate of election for the candidate for each statewide race who received a majority of first choices.  If they discover that no candidate in a particular race was the first choice of a majority of voters, they petition the court, in the same manner as a recount, to convene a runoff count committee to discover the actual majority winner.

The Instant Runoff Method mirrors the ballot counts that would occur if the voters participated in a runoff election between the top two candidates.  In a regular runoff voters who had favored one of the eliminated candidates would have to pick which ever of the top two they preferred.  Likewise with instant runoff retabulation, without calling the voters back to the polls, the same result can be discovered by re-examining the preferences marked on the ballots. In the runoff count each ballot counts as one vote for which ever of the two final candidates that is ranked higher on each ballot.  Thus, first-choice ballots for candidates who are still in the running once again count towards those same candidates.  If a voter’s favorite candidate has been eliminated, that voter’s ballot automatically counts as a vote for his or her alternate choice (the same as in a regular runoff).Since voters are not required to rank any additional candidates, it is mathematically possible, though extremely unlikely, that neither of the two final candidates will have a majority of all votes cast.  In this rarest of cases, the candidate with the most votes would win, except in the race for governor, lt. governor or treasurer, where a report of no election is issued and the legislature elects as provided in the constitution.

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