Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: July 11, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh

Summary: To provide for the election of the Mayor, the Attorney General, members of Council, and members of the State Board of Education using instant runoff voting, to require that District voting systems be compatible with an instant runoff ballot system, and setting a date and conditions for implementation.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Reforming the District of Columbia’s campaigns and elections to ensure more residents are engaged in the political process and their voices are accurately reflected in government remains a high priority for me.

Earlier this year, I introduced the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which aims to reduce the influence of big money in local campaigns by establishing a strong public financing system.

This morning, along with Councilmember Nadeau, I continue that push by introducing the Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017.

Instant Runoff Voting ensures that individuals receive a majority of the vote of the electorate, by allowing voters to rank the choices on their ballots in order of preference.

Tabulation of results proceeds in rounds. The first round eliminates the person with the fewest votes, then reallocates those votes to the voter’s second choice in the next round. This continues until one person receives a clear majority of the vote, and we can be sure that this is the preferred candidate of the electorate.

Unlike traditional runoff voting, this method does not require the expense of an additional election since it all happens on one ballot.

Many times in the District of Columbia, we have crowded primaries, open seats and special elections. These are opportunities for individuals to make an attempt at running for public office and giving back to their communities. Therefore the candidate field is often crowded, and victors emerge with less than a majority of the vote.

This will help change how we run for office, and force fields of candidates to focus on vigorous and spirited policy debates that appeal to a wide range of voters.

Instant runoff voting is currently used in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro California; Minneapolis, and St. Paul Minnesota; Portland, Maine; Takoma Park, Maryland; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Many states also use instant runoff on their military and overseas ballots.

The potential benefits to the District through instant runoff voting are immense.

We can expect higher voter turnout - as voters will be free to mark their ballot for the candidate they truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their least preferred candidate.

We can expect positive and more widespread campaigning - since candidates will not only be seeking to be a voters first choice but all will be asking to receive the voter’s second-choice and third-choice.

Instant runoff voting will make our elections more competitive and fair, and strengthen confidence in our electoral outcomes.