House gives approval to instant runoff measure
March 14, 2003
OLYMPIA -- A bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver,
would provide a different way to elect officials was approved
House on Thursday.
Substitute House Bill 1390 would create a five-year pilot
that would select a city to test instant runoff voting for
The new system effectively would eliminate primaries and
that the winner of the election garner a majority of the votes
rather than simply more than other candidates.
Voters would rank their choices, and if no candidate received
than 50 percent of the vote, the person in last place would be
eliminated. All votes for the eliminated candidate would
automatically count toward the next-choice candidates selected
The process would be repeated until one candidate received more
half the votes.
"Essentially, what (instant runoff voting) does is, it
the primary," Moeller said during the House floor debate. "All
candidates would run up to the end."
While no one during Thursday's debate could guarantee that
voting would work more effectively than the system it would
several lawmakers expressed support for the bill if only to
adequate information for continued discussion.
"People are afraid of what they don't know," said Rep. Jeff
D-Anacortes. "This toe in the water will give us real facts to
"It gives us an opportunity to test it and see how it works,"
Rep. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver.
Other legislators saw no need to tinker with voting methods.
"We have a system in this state that is working fairly well, as
evidenced by all of us sitting in this room," said Rep. Mike
Armstrong, R-Wenatchee, eliciting a chuckle. "The system is not
broke; we shouldn't be trying to fix it."
Nevertheless, the measure cleared the House 64-30.
"Woo-hoo!" Moeller said afterward. "I'm very excited about
it's never gotten this far before."
However, Moeller said, he also realizes that his bill could
tough road in the Senate, where a companion measure died
receiving a hearing.
Even if the Senate were to approve Moeller's bill and the
signed it, Vancouver would not necessarily want to involve
the program, said Mark Brown, the city's lobbyist.
"Vancouver may not pursue instant runoff voting as a method of
electing officials," he said, "but we want to have that
The issue was presented to Vancouver voters in November 1999 in
measure that asked the City Council to examine runoff voting as
option. The measure received 53 percent of the vote.
"We kind of had the carpet pulled out at that point," Brown
said. "The secretary of state said there wasn't the statutory
Bills to provide that authority were introduced by Rep. Bill
Fromhold, D-Vancouver, in 2001 and 2002, but they did not reach
floor for a vote.
If Moeller's bill becomes law, Brown said, "Runoff voting
would come back and say, 'Now you have the authority to do it
want, so re-engage the discussion.' "