For the past two years, one of the biggest concerns of Pierce County voters has been the new pick-a-party primary and what they can do to get rid of it. The Pierce County Charter Review Commission's answer to this question is Charter Amendment 3 on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Amendment 3 would replace the pick-a-party primary with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) for most county level offices.
The voters of the state of Washington are angry. We liked the traditional blanket primary, but the parties and courts took it away from us. The legislature and the parties then gave us the pick-a-party primary.
When the pick-a-party primary was first used in 2004, the Secretary of State's office received over 14,000 complains from voters across the state.
Things were no better this time around. In the recent primary, 11 percent of Pierce County ballots were not counted because voters did not pick a party.
With Amendment 3, taxpayers would no longer be required to fund low-turnout party primaries for county level offices. All candidates would appear directly on the November ballot.
In fact, the IRV ballot would look much like our old blanket primary ballot and voters would be able to vote for any candidate from any party. We could go back to picking the person, not the party.
IRV has been used in a variety of locations around the country. In these locations, post-election surveys show voters prefer IRV to their old system of electing officials by overwhelming margins. Amendment 3 would replace an election system which voters despise with one which voters like.
What an easy way to increase voter participation and satisfaction in elections! Instead of complaining about our method of voting, voters will be able to focus on other important issues.
IRV recognizes the parties' right to freedom of association by giving their central committees the right to determine which candidates can use the party name. It has been court tested and determined to be constitutional.
Because Amendment 3 requires the winner to receive a majority of votes, voters are given the option of indicating their second and third choices.
If no candidate receives a majority of first choices, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated and those votes are allocated to the voters' second choices.
If one candidate then has a majority, that candidate is declared the winner. If not, then the process is repeated. To see an animated example, go to http://www.yesonthree.com/irv.html.
This process eliminates the "spoiler" problem that independent voters often face when they want to vote for a candidate who may not have a reasonable chance of winning.
With IRV, voters can rank first the candidate they would most like to see win while also ranking a second choice in case their favorite candidate is eliminated.
By giving voters a full range of choices on the November ballot, Amendment 3 means we won't have unsatisfying elections such as the September 2006 primary where there were no contested county level primaries.
Amendment 3 would replace an election system that voters do not like with one that voters do like. This will increase voter participation and satisfaction.
Instant runoff voting will allow voters to vote for any candidate from any party in the affected races. Amendment 3 is a model for the state to use in replacing the pick-a-party primary statewide. Please vote Yes on Amendment 3.
Kelly Haughton is a Gig Harbor resident and served on the Pierce County Charter Review Commission earlier this year. The commission put forth nine changes to the county Charter that voters will have a chance to select in the November General Election. Contact Haughton via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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