Instant Runoff Voting and Its Impact on Racial Minorities
Published June 13, 2010
In recent years, IRV has been implemented for local elections in several American cities, including San Francisco (CA), Cary (NC), Hendersonville (NC), Takoma Park (MD), and Burlington (VT). It has also been used for state elections to allow overseas voters to participate in runoff elections in such states as Louisiana, South Carolina, and Arkansas. In 2008 Pierce County (WA) began using IRV to elect the county executive and other county offices.
FairVote and NAF cite communities adopting IRV, but don't mention that Cary, Burlington and Pierce County later ditched IRV. Nor do they mention that Hendersonville NC has never counted or reported the IRV votes! As for overseas voters using IRV, that isn't true IRV, but its more like issuing an additional ballot to voters, for special cases only.
FairVote and NAF claims IRV increases turnout in San Francisco, which is another whopper:
In San Francisco, California, after IRV was implemented, turnout decreased. In the 2007 mayoral contest, using IRV, there were 100,000 fewer voters than in 2003, when a traditional one-to-one runoff election was held. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, in their first IRV election held Nov 3, 2009, the city had its lowest voter turnout in over 100 years says the Minnesota Star Tribune. http://www.startribune.com/politics/local/69814067.html
IRV increased turnout citywide by 2.7 times, and in the city’s six most
racially and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods turnout quadrupled in the
2005 citywide election (the only race studied for impact on voter
"Turnout for Minneapolis elections last week was the lowest since 1902, before women got the vote, according to historical records." ~ Minneapolis Star Tribune, Nov 12, 2009
The New America Foundation and FairVote are proud of these survey results from SFSU’s exit polls in 2004 and 2005:
Understand "Perfectly well" or "Fairly Well"
To NAF and FairVote, its ok if 15% of a minority group are do not understand IRV "perfectly well".
To voter advocates, 15% is too many to not understand the voting process.
IRV IN REAL LIFE ELECTIONS:
INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING DOES NOT EMPOWER COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AND MAY HARM THEM:
Whites only: If instant runoff voting "empowers communities of color" then WHY does Takoma Park MD continue to elect an all white city council? IRV is bad for voters. A 2008 Grand Jury advised SF that voters and poll workers did not understand IRV.
IRV eliminates opportunity. In a radio interview, former SF Mayor Willie Brown said that IRV is really, really bad, "it eliminates opportunity". Listen here.
NC NAACP leader on IRV: "I am absolutely to the core opposed to instant runoff voting. And I believe that the issue of Instant runoff voting has clouded the discussions. And I want to make it very clear that that will cost the city money, not save the city money. Because I promise you that I will be protecting my right to vote, with legal action should you choose to do that. ~ Stella Adams - Vice Chair of NC Democratic Party and Housing Chair and Economic Empowerment Coordinator at NC NAACP speaking at Durham North Carolina City Council meeting.
Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People: This whole idea is that voting is a landmark of the people… even if its expensive. We spend a whole a lot of money on…..Just vote it down (non partisan plurality elections).I’m not going to be for instant runoff voting either....." Dr. Lavonia Allison - President of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People at Durham City Council meeting April 7, 2009.
Cary NC voters survey: 30.6% of Cary, NC voters had trouble understanding IRV, and 22.0% of Cary voters did not understand IRV at all according to Cary's 2008 bi-annual citizen survey
Hendersonville NC voters poll: 19.4% of Hendersonville NC voters polled came to the polls in 2009 unprepared to rank their choices according to a survey by Professor Michael Cobb. of NCSU.
San Francisco voters survey. According to studies by the Public Research Institute at SF State University: The proportion of voters who had prior knowledge of RCV was lower in 2005 (54%) than in the 2004 election for the Board of Supervisors (67%).
- Those with lower rates of prior knowledge tended to be those who were less educated, reported having lower incomes, and spoke a primary language other than Spanish.
There is never enough voter education: After 4 years of IRV and a fortune spent each year in San Francisco, a Grand Jury Report: said that poll workers and voters do not understand instant runoff. http://tinyurl.com/sfgrandjury How many different languages will IRV voter education have to address?
I implore readers to view the IRV sales pitch with caution, especially when such obvious ploys are used to appeal to emotions and not logic. I have done my best to provide you access to the studies, and added my opinion that its a very bad thing 15 percent of voters don't understand a voting method "perfectly well".