County Council approves study of instant runoff voting

  • Thursday, October 9, 2008 12:17pm
  • News

The Metropolitan King County Council approved legislation adopting a recommendation from the King County Charter Review Commission to study instant runoff voting (also known as ranked choice voting).

The legislation adopted by the Council on Monday requests that a written report documenting the advantages and disadvantages of instant runoff voting be presented to the council no later than January 2, 2010.

The King County Charter serves as the county’s constitution, and every ten years a commission assembles to review the charter and recommend amendments that it deems necessary. The Charter Review Commission recently recommended studying instant runoff voting and recommended specific amendments to the charter.

“The Charter Review Commission put considerable effort into establishing its recommendations,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson. “This legislation accepts the committee’s recommendation to examine whether instant runoff voting has a place in future King County elections.”

“I believe we should explore all options—including instant runoff voting—that have the potential to increase voter participation and interest in elections,” said Councilmember Dow Constantine. “I am very interested in seeing a thorough examination of this issue by King County’s Citizens Elections Oversight Committee.”

Instant runoff voting is a system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, and ballots cast for that candidate are redistributed to the remaining candidates according to the voter’s indicated preference. The process of eliminating the candidate with the fewest first-place votes and redistributing his or her votes continues until one candidate receives a majority, and thus wins the election.

“Ranked choice voting consolidates the primary and general election on one ballot – which could boost voter turnout and save the county up to $2.5 million a year,” said Charter Review Commission member Kirstin Haugen.

The legislation directs the King County Citizens’ Elections Oversight Committee to complete the study. The council established this committee in 2003 to help King County restore and maintain public confidence in elections. The committee makes recommendations to the council to improve the performance of the elections division and helps ensure that accountability and performance of the elections division is provided in a transparent manner that is meaningful to the residents of King County.

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