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Political Reform Program

Momentum Growing for Instant Runoff Voting

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is an election method which gives voters more meaningful choices, reduces campaign spending, and encourages positive and issue-oriented campaigns. Municipalities and taxpayers like IRV because IRV can eliminate the need for unnecessary and expensive two round runoff elections.

San Francisco has successfully used IRV (also known as ranked choice voting) since 2004. Now, cities and communities across California are looking at using IRV as a way to save money and boost voter turnout. Oakland, San Leandro and Berkeley will use IRV for the first time this year.  Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, San Jose and Sacramento are some of the jurisdictions which are studying or are likely to use IRV in the near future. 

Elsewhere in the country, Minneapolis held its first IRV election in 2009.  On that same Election Day, voters in the Twin City of St. Paul approved using IRV.  This year, the Academy Awards will use IRV to determine the winner of the Best Picture Oscar.  Next year, Memphis, the largest city in the South, will begin using IRV as well.

New America’s Political Reform Program has published numerous commentaries about IRV in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Daily News, Sacramento Bee and Oregonian, as well as in depth reports about how IRV can reinvigorate democracy in L.A. and San Jose.

IRV Special Elections Bills Introduced in California Legislature

California State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) and Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) have, respectively, introduced SB 1346 and AB 2732, bills that would save counties millions of dollars by allowing them to use instant runoff voting (IRV) for special elections to fill vacancies.

IRV in San Jose

The Political Reform Program recently released a policy paper which found that IRV could boost voter turnout in San Jose and save the city millions of dollars. Two city councilors, Ash Kalra and Sam Liccardo, spoke at a free public event about IRV sponsored by the Political Reform Program and Common Cause. The San Jose Elections Commission is expected to hold an IRV public study session in April.

Los Angeles County Registrar Considers IRV for Special Elections

In an opinion piece published by the Los Angeles Times, the Registrar for Los Angeles County, Dean Logan, notes how Instant Runoff Voting could solve the intertwined problems of high costs and low turnout for special elections.  Also, by a 10-2 vote, the Los Angeles City Council approved a task force that will research how Instant Runoff Voting can be implemented for all elections in the City of Los Angeles.

To read the press release, click here.

Long Beach looks at IRV

The city clerk of Long Beach has issued a favorable report that outlines the advantages of Long Beach changing from its current two-round method to electing majority winners in a single election using IRV. The Long Beach Press-Telegram has endorsed IRV.

Study: Communities of Color Benefit from IRV

The New America Foundation study on Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and Its Impact on Communities of Color analyzes IRV elections from other American cities, based on previous reports from FairVote, San Francisco State University, Asian Law Caucus and others.

The study shows that racial and ethnic minorities who speak a variety of languages overwhelmingly understand IRV and use ranked ballots effectively. In San Francisco, voter turnout in socio-economically diverse neighborhoods has increased dramatically. The study also analyzes the effectiveness of past IRV educational campaigns and provides pointers for the City of Los Angeles to conduct its own voter outreach.

"Our study shows that communities of color take full advantage of IRV. They not only use ranked ballots effectively, but also turn out in record numbers -- giving them a greater voice in the political process," said Monika Kulma of the New America Foundation "The study shows that IRV will benefit all residents of Los Angeles," she added.

Click here for more on the latest on the campaign for IRV in LA