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Sen. Hancock and Asm. Eng Introduce IRV Special Elections Bills

Bills Would Allow Counties to Use Instant Runoff Voting for Special Elections
Published:   February 23, 2010

SACRAMENTO-Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) and Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) 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. Based on a signature idea from the New America Foundation, these bills would drastically reduce the time needed to fill a vacant seat.

"Last year alone, taxpayers wasted millions of dollars on special elections that could have been decided fairly and efficiently with IRV," said Gautam Dutta, deputy director of the Political Reform Program at the New America Foundation. "We commend Senator Hancock and Assemblymember Eng for taking this important step toward empowering voters."

Under the current special election system, if one candidate fails to gain a majority of the votes, then the top candidate from each political party enters into a costly run-off election. In 2009, legislative seats previously held by state legislators Mike Duvall, Paul Krekorian, and John Benoit went vacant. While few voters turn out for the special elections, they waste a troubling sum of taxpayer dollars during an economic downturn: nearly $4 million between the elections to replace Duvall, Krekorian, and Benoit.

With IRV, voters are able to elect a majority winner in a single election by ranking their choices (1, 2, 3). This reform, which has attracted bi-partisan support, saves taxpayer dollars, relieves voter fatigue, and reduces the amount of time people must go without representation as they await the two-round special election cycle to finish. IRV also makes leaders more accountable by encouraging them to run cleaner, more issue-based campaigns, because they are looking to pick up the second rankings from the supporters of other candidates.

"We look forward to working with Senator Hancock and others to move this important legislation forward," said Steven Hill, director of the Political Reform Program at the New America Foundation. "Our research shows that communities have been unnecessarily denied representation for long periods of time because it typically takes two separate rounds held months apart to elect a majority winner."

For media requests, please contact Elizabeth Wu at wu@newamerica.net or (510) 295-9859. 

About the New America Foundation
The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States. www.newamerica.net