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Washington Post Columnists
Track IRV Vote in Alaska

Washington Post reporters Richard Morin and Claudia Deane have a weekly column on the "The Ideas Industry." Following are two items they published on the vote on instant runoff voting in Alaska.

Ideas Industry
By Richard Morin and Claudia Deane
August 27, 2002


It's Election Day in Alaska and few people in the Lower 49 are paying more attention to the voting than Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy.

Specifically, Richie is monitoring the fortunes of Measure 1, a ballot initiative that would, if approved by voters, make Alaska the first state to adopt Instant Runoff Voting for most major elections in 2004.

"The campaign did some limited polling about 10 days ago . . . among likely voters, and they were well ahead, but support was soft," Richie said. "The opposition has now hit pretty hard," but the race is "still winnable."

Instant Runoff Voting -- known as IRV -- is among the hottest ideas in election reform. If Measure 1 passes, instead of voting for a single candidate in each race, Alaska voters would rank the candidates in order of preference. If no candidate had a majority of first-choice votes after the ballots were counted, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes would be dropped. Voters who picked that candidate would have their votes shifted to their second choice, and the votes would be retabulated. The process would be repeated until one candidate emerged with a majority.

Supporters include the Republican and Green parties -- the odd coupling that elected George W. Bush president in 2000. Opponents are led by the state Democratic Party, which fears that its primacy over local elections would be compromised if IRV passes, and the League of Women Voters of Alaska.

Residents of San Francisco adopted IRV in March. Vermont seems poised to embrace IRV, which has been endorsed by Gov. Howard Dean, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. Richie added that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) "is coming out for IRV."

Ideas Industry
By Richard Morin and Claudia Deane
September 3, 2002

Election Update:

The first statewide vote to implement instant runoff voting ended in an avalanche of "no" votes last week as Alaska's Measure 1 was handily defeated 64 percent to 36 percent. Opposition from several leading Democrats, the state League of Women Voters, several newspapers "and a lack of general understanding of the mechanics of instant runoff voting and the problems it addresses contributed to the defeat," concluded Rob Richie of the Center for Voting and Democracy.

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Copyright 2002 The Center for Voting and Democracy
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