Friday, April 25, 2008

King County board votes to study IRV

IRV folks have been pushing for a charter amendment in King County for the past few months, similar to the path taken in Pierce County. The charter review commission moved to suggest the county study IRV instead.

Not really a win, but not an all out loss either. Looks like Pierce County is still the pioneer. This fall with the Top Two/IRV taste test will be interesting:

Via email:

Hi folks this is to let you know that last night we won a modest but significant victory on the road to opening up our voting system to more voices and choices through using Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also known as Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in King County. The King County Charter Review Commission, a group of citizens appointed every 10 years to recommend changes in the County's Charter, voted 16-1 to ask the King County Council to form a citizens task force to investigate whether we should put an initiative in support of IRV for County Elections of the ballot in King County. The recommendation is for the citizens's task force to be convened in January 2010 and to make a recommendation about the advisability of an IRV initiative by the end of the year.

Of course, we would have preferred something much stronger, we were urging the commission to recommend adoption of IRV right away due its many advantages, including ensuring the election of a true majority, encouraging greater voter turnout, reducing negative campaigning, allowing people to vote their hopes rather than their fears by eliminating the "spoiler" factor, and saving pubic dollars by combining the primary and general election into a single contest.

Still, the commissions' vote was a significant victory for electoral reform, their initial recommendation had been to essentially do nothing- take no action of IRV and to simply wait and see what happens in Pierce County where IRV will be used for the first time this year after a successful pubic vote. Our public testimony affirmed the fact that IRV has been used successfully around the county and around the world for decades and demonstrated broad public support for a system that offers much greater choice. The fact that IRV had more support during the Comssion's pubic hearings than any other issue by far was recognized in their discussion last night; clearly it was what turned the tide in favor of the commission voting to give IRV more specific consideration. About 30 people testified during the 4 public hearings, including a large number of young people, and dozens wrote letters as well. Thanks much to all of you who participated!

There is much more work to be done, including educating the members of the King County Council about the merits of IRV. We gained a lot of support and educated a lot of people during the public hearing process. Let's savor this small but significant victory and keep our poitive momentum going to have an effective citizen's advisory group that will recommend putting IRV on the ballot in King County.

Joe Szwaja
Vice President Instant Runoff Voting of Washignton

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