May 4, 2009
AUGUSTA – Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, presented legislation to the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee Monday that would create a two-year instant run-off voting pilot project to be conducted in up to 10 communities across the state.
Instant run-off voting, or ranked voting, allows a voter to rank candidates according to that voter’s preferences. Each voter has only one vote, with the candidate with the fewest votes eliminated after each round of counting. The method is thought to give third-party candidates a better chance of being competitive.
The secretary of state would choose municipalities with secret ballot voting that does not coincide with statewide elections to participate in the pilot project. The ranked voting would be used to select candidates in races with three or more candidates. The secretary of state would report back on the success of the pilot project, and any recommended legislation as a result of it, by Dec. 7, 2011.
“In elections with more than two candidates where a winner wins with a plurality of the vote, the majority of voters voted for another candidate. In other words, a majority of people in the community voted AGAINST the winner,” said Russell. “That’s one of the reasons why instant run-off voting is a better system.”
The method simulates the ballot counts that would occur if all voters participated in a series of run-off elections. First, there is an initial round of counting. If more than two candidates have received votes after the initial round, the secretary of state conducts an instant run-off round. In this instant run-off round, the Secretary of State eliminates the candidate with the fewest votes. All ballots with the eliminated candidate as the voter’s first choice would then be recounted with their second choice.
“I like this election reform so much that I served as the IRV America Director for a time at FairVote in Takoma Park, Md.,” Russell said in her testimony to the committee. “While I like the reform a lot, I was shocked to see just how many average citizens were excited to try it out – more than seven in ten voters ultimately said they preferred it to their former system.”
The committee is scheduled to hold a work session on the bill, LD 1344, at 1 p.m. May 13. At that time, it may take a vote on its recommendation for passage to the full legislature.
Rep. Diane Russell, 902-0043
Lori Eschholz, legislative aide, 287-1430
Travis Kennedy, communications director, 287-1433