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Mark Ridley-Thomas calls for 'instant runoff' system

Daily News Wire Services // Published March 31, 2009 in Los Angeles Daily News

With the low turnout and high cost of the recent special election to fill the 26th District Senate seat, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas today will call for the county to pursue the use of an "instant runoff'' system.

No candidate received more than 50 percent of the votes in last week's special election to fill the state Senate seat that was vacated by Ridley- Thomas when he was elected to the county Board of Supervisors, so there will be a runoff election.

In an instant runoff, voters would rank their preferences for the office, and if their first choice were eliminated, their votes would go to their second-choice until someone received a majority, and there would be no second election.

At today's Board of Supervisors meeting, Ridley-Thomas plans to ask the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk to report on whether it would be feasible to use an instant runoff system.

His recommendation was met with support from the Courage Campaign, a statewide voter mobilization group.

"Instant runoff voting offers the possibility of greater choice for voters,'' said Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs. "With IRV, they don't have to back a protest candidate who cannot win or just vote for a leading candidate they do not really like for fear of a worse outcome. They can really vote their choice.''

Assemblyman Curren Price Jr., D-Inglewood, received 35.65 percent of the vote last week in a field of six Democratic candidates and is heavily favored to best his two opponents in the upcoming election, Republican Rabbi Nachum Schifren and Peace and Freedom candidate Cindy Varela Henderson.

In the heavily Democratic district, Schifren received 11.53 percent of the vote and Henderson 1.75 percent. They will face Price in a runoff election May 19.

"This many elections are needlessly costing taxpayers millions of dollars and contributing to voter fatigue,'' Ridley-Thomas said. "This results in low voter turnout, which is antithetical to representative government and ultimately corrosive to a vibrant, participatory democracy.''

Only about 6 percent of the district's 390,409 registered voters voted in the primary, which cost taxpayers $2.2 million.