Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Berkeley votes to approve instant runoff voting with 72% of the vote!

The Berkeley campaign to approve instant runoff voting (the campaign website is here) won a resounding victory yesterday with more than 72% of the vote. Measure I amends the city charter to permit the Berkeley City Council to implement instant runoff voting.

This is the biggest election margin for instant runoff voting in the history of the country (I'd guess).

Currently, Berkeley uses a runoff election if no candidate earns more than 45% of the vote. These runoffs aren't cheap (more than $1,000,000 in total over the last ten years). Instant runoff voting allows the city to consolidate the two elections into one. Voters get to rank the candidates (1, 2, 3). If no candidate earns a majority of the first-choice votes, an instant runoff is held. Instead of voting again, they count the ballots again. The candidate who came in last is eliminated, and the supporters of that candidates have their vote count for the second-choice on the ballot -- just like a runoff election where the supporters of an eliminated candidate have to pick their second-choice among those still on the ballot.

No need to have a second election, however, with instant runoff voting. That's where the money-saving comes in.

This amendment doesn't implement instant runoff voting, but it does start the process (which will involve getting the county officials on board) in a big way.

If you'd like to get on a national listserv about instant runoff voting (moderated) with news from around the country on this growing movement to give voters more choices on election day, or just read the archives, that listserv is here.

And our effort in Illinois to authorize the use of instant runoff voting keeps on moving forward. We're working on passing HB 4011 or something like it), introduced by Paul Froehlich and supported by a bunch of great legislators like Barbara Flynn Currie, Art Turner, Julie Hamos, Dan Burke and Elaine Nekrtiz. It didn't make it out of Rules this session, but we hope to tack it onto another bill later in session.

Here are news articles on Berkeley's huge vote for instant runoff voting: one in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune and the Daily Californian.

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