The curious attack by the Memphis City Council on voters continued in Tennessee last year. Once again bucking the views of the lopsided majorities of voters who voted in 2008 for charter amendments to establish ranked choice voting (RCV, or “instant runoff”) and term limits in city elections, the council voted yesterday to place a charter amendment on the November ballot to extend their own terms (directly boosting six of them who otherwise would be termed out in 2019). Last year the council also voted to place a charter amendment on the November ballot to stop implementation of RCV in 2019 despite remarkable turnout of RCV backers eager to see the city finally implement the system that 71 percent of them backed in November 2008.
We suspect Memphis voters, just like the Maine voters who likely will have a chance to keep RCV in a Maine referendum in June, will reject these attacks on their past decisions and apparent calculation that incumbents want to try to keep as much control as possible. The case for RCV over traditional runoffs in Memphis is overwhelmingly strong, given the huge plunges in turnout and turnout equity in past city council runoffs. RCV also makes great sense over a simple plurality vote system, as crowded fields can mean low pluralities without a system like RCV designed to make more votes count Memphis reformers have a Facebook group and will have a strong campaign to keep RCV on track.