The Memphis Charter Commission has the chance Thursday to do something progressive for our city – to create an election process that deserves to be called 21st century.

At the meeting, Charter Commission members will vote on whether to put Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) on the referendum ballot with other amendments to the city charter. It seems an imminently reasonable approach, and we’re encouraged that a number of commission members appear receptive to an idea whose time has come.

If approved at referendum, it would not automatically implement IRV for Memphis. Rather, it would give city government the option of IRV, and our city gets the rare opportunity to be a trend setter. More to the point, at a time when city elected officials are scrambling for ways to cut costs, this one does by eliminating costly runoffs.

The Process

Here’s how it works:

When voters go to the polls, they vote for candidates in order of their preference. The pick their first choice, their second choice, their third choice, and so on.

If a candidate wins a majority, that person obviously is the winner. If there is no candidate with a majority, the rankings of the other candidates are used to declare a winner.

All ballots are recounted, and the candidate receiving the least number of first place votes is eliminated. The ballots are counted again, and voters who chose the eliminated candidate now have their votes counted for the second-ranked candidate. The weakest candidates are progressively eliminated and votes redistributed until a single candidate has a majority of the votes.

Real Winners

In this way, IRV offers the chance for better voter choice and wider voter participation in selecting the winner. According to proponents like Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, IRV allows voters to vote for their favorite candidate without the fear that they are helping to elect their least favorite candidate. Best of all, the ultimate winner actually has the real support of a majority of voters.

It’s a good time to let Charter Commission members hear from you on this promising improvement in local elections.

Contacts For Charter Commission Members

Here’s the email addresses for the Charter Commission members:

Willie Brooks

Sylvia Cox

Marsha Campbell

Janis Fullilove

George Brown

Sharon Webb

Myron Lowery

Here’s our September 25, 2007 post: IRV Gives Election Results ASAP.