Campaign begins for Instant Runoff Voting
A Rochester City Council member is urging other city officials to consider changing how votes are cast within the city.

By Heather J. Carlson
Published October 17th 2009 in Post-Bulletin
Council member Michael Wojcik has asked to speak before the city's Charter Commission to ask them to consider having Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in Rochester.

Under this system, voters would rank candidates based on preference. Wojcik said he would like to see Rochester use this system because it requires candidates to get more than 50 percent of the vote to win an election, and it eliminates the dilemma some voters face of feeling like they would be throwing their vote away if they voted for a third-party candidate who is not expected to have a chance at winning.

The voting system has its share of critics. They note that a candidate who wins the most votes at first can end up losing an election, and it would require new election machines that have not thoroughly been tested.

Before this type of switch could be made, Rochester's Charter Commission would need to make a recommendation to the City Council. Unless the council approved the recommendation unanimously, the issue would be put to the voters to decide.

Wojcik has requested to address a series of election reforms he is proposing, including Instant Runoff Voting, at the commission's Nov. 11 meeting. His other ideas include eliminating the use of appointments to fill vacant council seats and arguing against the need for a 7th Ward.

"I'm a pretty strong supporter of instant runoff voting and election reform in general because I think there have been some really rotten things that have happened in Rochester and Minnesota in recent years and this would have alleviated the problem," he said.

In particular, he said it was unfair that there was no primary held for the school board elections in 2008 despite a number of candidates seeking the seats. He said that meant board members got onto the board with far less than a majority of votes.

City Council President Dennis Hanson did not return a phone call seeking comment. Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede said he needs to learn more about the voting system before he would be comfortable giving an opinion on it.

IRV Soars in Twin Cities, FairVote Corrects the Pundits on Meaning of Election Night '09
Election Day '09 was a roller-coaster for election reformers.  Instant runoff voting had a great night in Minnesota, where St. Paul voters chose to implement IRV for its city elections, and Minneapolis voters used IRV for the first time—with local media touting it as a big success. As the Star-Tribune noted in endorsing IRV for St. Paul, Tuesday’s elections give the Twin Cities a chance to show the whole state of Minnesota the benefits of adopting IRV. There were disappointments in Lowell and Pierce County too, but high-profile multi-candidate races in New Jersey and New York keep policymakers focused on ways to reform elections;  the Baltimore Sun and Miami Herald were among many newspapers publishing commentary from FairVote board member and former presidential candidate John Anderson on how IRV can mitigate the problems of plurality elections.

And as pundits try to make hay out of the national implications of Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections, Rob Richie in the Huffington Post concludes that the gubernatorial elections have little bearing on federal elections.