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    Instant Runoff Voting: Fair Vote Multnomah

    The Green Zine, winter 2004

    Instant runoff voting's time has come. Actually, in Oregon, instant runoff voting's time has come and gone and come and gone again (see sidebar), but the opportunity exists for it to stick around in Oregon for a while. Instant runoff (IRV) is a voting system that produces a winner with a true majority of votes and a democratic mandate to rule. Under IRV, voters rank their candidates first, second, third and so on, instead of choosing only one. Just as in the current system, whoever gets over 50 percent of votes wins, but if no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the votes, the instant runoff begins. The last-place candidate is eliminated and votes for that candidate count toward the second choices selected by each voter. Recounting the ballots this way continues until one candidate receives a majority of the votes. Regular runoff elections achieve the same result, but IRV saves a staggering amount of money and the winner is decided immediately. In addition to saving time and money, IRV has many other advantages over the election system currently in place. For Greens and other progressives, IRV could help reduce the polarization that prevents concerned citizens allying themselves with one another. Under our current system, candidates vilify their opponents in the hope of getting a plurality of votes, but under IRV candidates have an incentive to conduct civil campaigns that appeal to supporters of rivals rather than alienate them. Candidates must recognize that even if they are not a particular voter's first choice, they still retain the possibility of becoming a voter's second or third choice, and in this way IRV can replace the politics of polarization with the politics of true majority rule. Efforts are underway to establish the same grassroots movement in Oregon that propelled San Francisco voters to adopt IRV for November 2004 city elections. Instant runoff voting may have another shot at passing if the Multnomah County charter Review Committee puts IRV on the November 2004 ballot, giving voters the chance to vote on it at the same time they vote for president. Democratic candidates Kucinich and Dean both support instant runoff voting and their endorsements in this heated election year could help push the measure through. The best chance for a more representative government lies with assuring elections are as democratic as possible, and IRV would be a huge step towards that goal. Fillard Rhyne, a Green Party member, is beginning the newest Fair Vote Multnomah campaign by building a volunteer base. Ccontact him at 503-777-0117.)

    1908: Ballot Measure 15 passes, amending Oregon Constitution to read, in part: "Provision may be made by law for the voter's direct or indirect expression of his first, second or additional choices among the candidates for any office. For an office which is filled by the election of one person it may be required by law that the person elected shall be the final choice of a majority of the electors voting for candidates for that office.” 1998: The Multnomah County Charter Review Committee approves Measure 26-85. It would have allowed the county board of commissioners to use IRV at their discretion. Despite "no" endorsements from both The Oregonian and Willamette Week, the measure gets 40% of the vote. 1999: Diane Rosenbaum introduces House Bill 3162 - to enact IRV for state-level elections such as governor and state representative - and House Bill 3163 - to establish a Commission on Voting and Citizen Participation. Neither bill received a hearing, 2000: Lloyd Marbet and others started working on the text for an IRV ballot measure initiative for 2002. 2001: Eugene's Measure 20-51 mandating the use of IRV for mayor and city council elections lost in a 34-to-66% vote. 2002: San Francisco becomes the first major American city to authorize (by public vote) use of IRV to elect its officials. 2000-02: Fair Vote Oregon, an organization with chief petitioners from the Republican, Democratic, and Pacific Green parties, lobbies the state legislature to enact I RV and collects over 6000 signatures in favor of conducting elections by IRV.

    S.M.Berg is a feminist, bicyclist
    and freelance writer in Portland.

    Copyright © by genderberg.com All Right Reserved.

    Published on: 2005-02-24 (1633 reads)

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