Voices & Choices

Positive Steps Forward in Tennessee

Positive Steps Forward in Tennessee

The Tennessee General Assembly could decide to squash ranked choice voting in Tennessee, but Tennesseans are fighting back. Tennessee House Bill 0638, which would prohibit any county or municipality from using ranked choice voting for any election, was introduced in February of 2017 and referred to the Local Government Subcommittee, where no further action was taken. This past February, a companion bill was introduced in the state Senate, SB 2271.

The Senate bill was referred to the State and Local Government Committee and scheduled for a hearing on February 20. Save IRV Memphis, a group of local activists and electoral reformers in Memphis, along with other activists across Tennessee voiced their opposition, and called for the bill to be deferred to March 13, and were successful. Last week, the bill was assigned to the General Subcommittee of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. Often, bills do not make a return from the General Subcommittee, so this outcome could end up as a win for Tennessee voters.

However, HB 0638 was placed on the Local Government Subcommittee calendar for March 21. FairVote recently learned that the bill will be taken off the schedule for the subcommittee hearing this coming Wednesday, which means passing the bill in its current form is highly unlikely. In itself, this is great news, but it doesn’t mean another path won’t be taken to try and pass this bill before the Tennessee legislative session ends on April 27.

It’s worth noting, in 2008 the citizens of Memphis voted overwhelmingly (with 70 percent of voters approving) to bring ranked choice voting to their single-winner City Council elections. (Memphis has seven single-winner City Council districts and two multi-winner City Council districts that encapsulates all of the City of Memphis that elect three City Council members.) The Memphis City Council voted to place a charter amendment on the ballot for November of 2018 to repeal ranked choice voting.

The people of Tennessee want ranked choice voting adopted for their elections. Ranked choice voting is a simple, yet powerful change that can be made to give voters a stronger voice in elections. The Tennessee General Assembly and the Memphis City Council shouldn’t be working to prevent the implementation of this electoral reform.

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