Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mayor Tim Davlin puts IRV on the Springfield ballot to enfranchise overseas voters

Great news: Mayor Tim Davlin earned City Council approval this week to place instant runoff voting on the April ballot for overseas voters!

That means Springfield citizens will be the first in the state to have the chance to implement a ranked ballot.

Right now, overseas voters are disenfranchised from the April election, because there simply isn't enough time after the February primary to print, mail and return the ballots before the April election. The solution to this administrative problem is instant runoff voting: the clerk sends the overseas voters two ballots in January, a regular February ballot and a special ranked ballot for the April election. Since the voter won't know when he casts his vote in January which candidates will survive to the April election, all candidates are listed and he ranks his choices. The ballots are sealed separately and mailed back before the February election, ensuring that the voter is no longer disenfranchised. When the April election comes, the vote goes to the candidate on the April ballot with the highest rank. In other words, if his first-choice didn't make it to the April election, then his vote goes to his second-choice candidate (and so on).

Instant runoff voting is used for overseas voters in Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina, but Springfield would be the first city to use it in Illinois. San Francisco, Minneapolis, Davis, Oakland and Burlington all use IRV as well.

Mayor Davlin deserves a ton of credit for aggressively working to enfranchise overseas and military voters. You can hear him make the pitch for IRV at the Public Affairs Committee meeting of the City Council on January 8 here. Mayor Davlin's press release is here. The Springfield Journal-Register blurb on the vote is here and a longer article is here. I hope Springfield voters will approve the measure in April, which would then go into effect for the 2011 municipal election.

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