Electoral Reform on the Ballot: Wins for Instant Runoff Voting and More

2008 was historic in terms of the election of the first African American
to be president and the largest number of voters at the polls in our
history. But in the modern era, there is no excuse for privately-owned
voting machines that breed mistrust, confusing ballot designs, polling
places with long lines, voter registration laws that leave nearly a third
of Americans off the rolls, an Electoral College system that undercuts
equality and voting methods that suppress voter choice and stifle fair

A round of electoral reform victories in key ballot measures suggest that
Americans have had enough of antiquated electoral laws. Landslide
majorities voted for instant
runoff voting
in Memphis, Tennessee (70%) and Telluride, Colorado
(67%), for early voting in Maryland (71%) and for
17-year-old primary
in Connecticut (64%), while proportional representation for
city council elections in Cincinnati (OH) won 46.5% despite well-financed
opposition that poured in close to $100,000 in the last 10 days with a
smear campaign of distortions.

Here are a few more details on this year's key ballot measures on
electoral reform:

* Accommodating voter choice in a single trip to the polls in Memphis
and Telluride
-- Instant runoff voting (also called ranked choice
voting) has had a terrific run at the ballot box, securing wins in recent
years across the nation. The second largest city in the southeastern
United States, Memphis voted adopt instant runoff voting for city
election by an overwhelming 70% to 30% margin. Telluride (CO) adopted it
for mayor, while Pierce County (WA) had a terrific first election with
instant runoff voting in hotly contested races for county executive and
other offices.

* 17-year-old primary voting in Connecticut wins big -- Voters
gave a landslide win of 64% for a state constitutional amendment to
enable 17-year-olds who are pre-registered to vote in primaries connected
to a general election in which they will be 18 and eligible to vote.
Parties in most states don't need to wait for state action -- they are
empowered to enact it through a change in party rules, ideally twinned
with voter registration policies making it possible for 16-year-olds and
17-year-olds to pre-register to vote.

* Landslide win for early voting in Maryland - Maryland voters
having to wait in line yesterday must have been all the more ready to
support state constitutional amendment one to establish early voting and
relaxed absentee voting. It is winning 71% to 29%.

* Redistricting reform in California narrowly ahead - This race
has not been called, but Proposition 11 to establish an independent
commission to conduct state legislative redistricting is ahead 50.5% to
49.5% and like,ly to win. Although not designed to give voters the chance
to define their representation as would be true with proportional
representation, it is high time to keep legislators from picking their
voters before their voters pick them.

* "Top two" primary in Oregon trounced - Ballot Measure
65 in Oregon would have replaced the current traditional primary election
system with a system in which the parties could select nominees privately
and voters in the primary then would narrow the field to the top two,
regardless of party, to go onto the general election. Under consideration
in other states like California, the measure has been swamped by a
two-to-one margin. Backers may turn to Pierce County's experience with
instant runoff voting as a more popular way to give voters real choices
in high turnout elections.

* Initiative rights protected in Arizona - State voters by a
two-to-one margin handily rejected Proposition 105, which would have made
it almost impossible to pass initiatives by establishing that measures
would need a majority of all registered voters regardless of voter

Of course we don't have to win change through ballot measures. In this
era of heightened understanding of the power of electoral rules, state
legislators and Members of Congress should adopt the
National Popular Vote plan
for president
, universal voter registration, public ownership of any
voting equipment, instant runoff voting, proportional representation and
more. They can act knowing that voters are ready for change.

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