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New Election Method a Success in Takoma Park

Released January 31, 2007

Takoma Park, MD -- On Tuesday, January 30th, Takoma Park used Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) to fill a vacant city council seat in Ward 5. The Takoma Park city council unanimously adopted IRV in 2006 after IRV earned the support of 84% of voters in a November 2005 advisory referendum. Voters appeared to be happy with the change.

Voters understood how to vote using IRV, with 99.5% percent of voters casting a valid ballot. Quality voter education contributed to this success rate, with 80% of respondents knowing they would be asked to rank candidates for this election. According to an exit poll conducted by FairVote, voters also liked the new system, with 88% of respondents supporting IRV for local, state or national elections. "Voter response was extremely supportive of IRV," said Adam Bartolanzo, a researcher at FairVote. "One voter told me it was the first time in her life in which she voted for all three candidates, something a traditional winner-take-all voting system would never allow."

IRV ensures majority winners in a single round of voting. Voters rank candidates in order of preference. If a candidate receives a majority of first choices, he or she is elected. If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated and votes cast for the eliminated candidate now count toward voters' second choices. This process continues until one candidate receives a majority. With three candidates contesting Tuesday's election, Ward 5 voters will be able to express their true preferences by ranking candidates without worrying about spoiler problems or candidates winning with less than a majority of the vote.

IRV has become a popular election reform around the country in recent years. It is used for local elections in San Francisco and Burlington (VT) and for overseas military voters in South Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana. Minneapolis, Oakland and a number of cities and counties in North Carolina are all in the process of implementing IRV for use in the next few years.

With national momentum and a successful election locally, Takoma Park resident and FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie sees potential for wider use of IRV in Maryland. "With Takoma Park setting a strong example and legislative support growing in Annapolis, I expect other Maryland cities to begin looking to IRV for efficient elections with greater voter choice."

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For information or comment on this event, contact Ryan Griffin at (301) 270-4616 or [email protected]