On April 21, the California Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee passed AB 1121, a bill authorizing a limited number of general law cities and counties the option of using ranked voting systems, such as Instant Runoff Voting. On that same day, the Menlo Park City Council voted 5-0 to support the bill.
Current California law prohibits general law jurisdictions-those without their own charters-from using these types of voting systems. Charter cities, such as San Francisco, which uses IRV, and San Jose, which is considering it, are free to change their election methods.
AB 1121 would establish a pilot program, allowing a total of 10 cities and counties to use ranked voting as part of this limited authorization. Municipalities could participate in the pilot program by action of their governing body. In order to use ranked voting, these cities or counties would also need to obtain the approval of their voters.
AB 1121 is similar to a bill from the last legislative session, AB 1294, which was passed by both houses of the Legislature and sent to the Governor, who later vetoed it. The current bill has narrowed the scope of the earlier legislation, addressing the Governor's specific concerns, in the hopes that it will now gain the Governor's support.
At the time of the hearing, a number of organizations and community leaders had expressed support for AB 1121, including:
Californians for Electoral Reform
Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality
California Common Cause
League of California Cities
League of Women Voters of California
New America Foundation
Secretary of State Debra Bowen
Warren Slocum, Chief Elections Officer, San Mateo County
For more information about this bill, visit the website of Californians for Electoral Reform.