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Instant Runoff Voting: The Oscars, National Referendum in UK and Much More

The House of Commons yesterday voted overwhelmingly to hold a national referendum on IRV, and the use of IRV in the Oscar vote for best picture this year is getting growing attention.
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It's been a rather remarkable year for instant runoff voting (IRV), the ranked choice voting majority election system designed to accommodate voters having more than two choices in elections. Here's a quick review:

1) The British House of Commons yesterday voted overwhelmingly to hold a national referendum on IRV in 2011 by a whopping 365 to 187, a winning margin of 178 votes. See this written story and link to television coverage and blogging about it on this side of the pond by the New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg.

2) In Berkeley (CA), the city council last night voted 8 to 1 to implement instant runoff voting this year for elections for mayor and city council, the culmination of a long campaign that included a 72% win at the ballot in March 2004. Berkeley's vote means that three California cities (Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro) will use IRV for the first time this November, joining San Francisco as it holds its 7th IRV election.

3) The use of IRV in the Oscar vote for best picture this year is getting growing attention. See Hendrik Hertzberg's review of its impact in the New Yorker magazine's latest "Talk of the Town" and helpful articles in the New York Times and USA Today (with a useful interactive animation). Our board chair Krist Novoselic has the most recent post on our new blog on the Oscars and IRV.

4) A losing candidate in the mayor's race in Burlington (VT) last year and his backers collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the use of IRV in mayoral elections on March 2nd. The local League of Women Voters, Common Cause, VPIRG and a majority of the city's elected officials are leading a campaign against it. See an effective op-ed and letter defending IRV in the local paper, a link to the campaign's website and news coverage.

5) The first federal and state primaries for this year's elections took place shockingly early in Illinois: on February 2nd. A number of high-profile races were won with less than 50%, most remarkably the Republican gubernatorial primary won with just 20.3% (and now in a recount, even though 60% of the votes effectively are discounted as having been cast for candidates out of the top two). In 2002 President Barack Obama -- then a state senator -- was prime sponsor of a bill to use IRV for primaries. See pro-IRV commentaries reacting to the results in Illinois from the Wednesday Journal, the Chicago Daily Herald, the Chicagoist and theDes Moines Register.

6) Last month, a charter commission in Portland, the biggest city in Maine (not its counterpart in Oregon), voted 9 to 1 to put instant runoff voting on the ballot in November, after hearing testimony from me and a number of local reform advocates such as the League of Young Voters. The local daily paper endorsed the commission's move, as did the paper in nearby Brunswick.

7) Utah's state senate last month seated its second member elected by Republican voters using IRV to fill a vacancy. Former Layton mayor Jerry Stevenson won a majority in the final instant runoff against four challengers, with ballots cast by 169 of the 216 District 21 Republican delegates. Last August, Stuart Adams earned a seat in another hotly contested special election among Republican delegates in Senate District 22 with IRV.

8) Saint Cloud State University has released a voter survey taken after the November 2009 debut of IRV in Minneapolis (MN) and the results are overwhelmingly positive. A survey by North Carolina State University showed similarly positive numbers for IRV in Hendersonville (NC).

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