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Massachusetts Reformers Launch Campaign for Statewide IRV

by Paul Fidalgo // Published August 7, 2009

Some good news from Massachusetts as local reformers are putting their energies into gathering signatures for a ballot initiative asking voters to decide if they want instant runoff voting implemented for statewide elections. The campaign is emphasizing the way IRV eliminates the spoiler effect, clearing the way for a wider diversity of candidates to affect the political debate.

The entire official press release follows:

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Citizens for Voter Choice

For immediate release: August 5, 2009, 7:30 PM Contact: David England, [email protected], 617-277-2827

PROPOSED VOTER CHOICE BALLOT QUESTION WOULD BRING MORE VOICES AND CHOICES INTO MASSACHUSETTS ELECTIONS

A "Voter Choice" initiative petition turned in to the Massachusetts Attorney General's office on Wednesday would give Massachusetts voters a chance to change to a voting system that lets voters rank their choices instead of voting for only one candidate. The change would apply to key races, including for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary and treasurer, among others, starting after January 2012.

The proposed law, which is also known as Instant Runoff Voting, would let voters rank candidates in order of preference (first, second, third, etc.) instead of being restricted to choosing only one candidate. If a voter's first choice is eliminated, their vote is automatically reassigned to their second choice, ensuring that no voter is "throwing their vote away" by voting for the candidate that represents their views, regardless of that candidate's chance of winning. In the words of voting reform activist Dave England, "Voter Choice lets people vote based on their values - and not worry about the horse race. It eliminates the fear that voting for the candidate you strongly support could help a candidate you strongly oppose. And it ensures that the winning candidate is the one with majority support, not the beneficiary of a 'spoiled' election."

Rand Wilson, who ran for state auditor with a third party in 2006, commented "By freeing candidates from concern about spoiling the race, Voter Choice encourages more candidates to run. With more contested races, voters can hold elected officials accountable - something we can't do when incumbents run unopposed, as often happens in Massachusetts."

Ann Eldridge-Malone, a nurse and health care advocate noted "Voter Choice opens the door to having diverse issues and solutions on the table. This is critical if we are to solve the growing health care crisis as well as many other issues facing Massachusetts families."

According to League of Women Voters of Massachusetts President Zaxaro Bennett, "The League supports Instant Runoff Voting because it encourages clear voter intent. This creates a healthy debate, and increases voter engagement. It is paramount for the health of our democracy."

Tim Carpenter, an organizer for a major political party, observed that "This could really help sort things out in crowded party primaries in which we often have votes being split between five or six candidates. In our current system, if the votes split evenly someone can win with only 25 per cent of the votes. With Voter Choice, you have to get majority support in order to win, and we can guarantee that the winner truly reflects the will of the electorate."

Voter Choice is used in a growing number of cities in the US and several countries around the world. While runoff elections are nothing new in the United States, the Voter Choice or Instant Runoff law would mark the first time in the nation that this system would be applied on a statewide basis. The term "Instant Runoff Voting" was coined because the method of transferring votes from defeated candidates to continuing candidates is just like a runoff election except that it is accomplished on one ballot.

In order to ensure that Voter Choice will appear on the 2010 ballot, proponents plan to collect approximately 100,000 voter signatures between now and November.