Runaway Runoffs - Too many elections!

Saving Millions on Elections
By Gautam Dutta

Only 13 percent voted in yesterday's Los Angeles elections - an all-time low for voter turnout in a Los Angeles mayoral election.  But the endless cycle of elections is not yet over.  Already, we have asked Angelenos to vote four times in little more than a year.  To add insult to injury, residents of South Los Angeles will probably be asked to vote four more times between now and Halloween!

Angelenos have had it with too many elections - and they're voting with their feet.  In 2007, only 6 percent of voters showed up for the Los Angeles runoff election.  We needlessly run two-round elections when one round would suffice, and these elections occur at inconvenient times.

Fortunately, there's a better way:  Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).  This way, voters could elect a majority winner in only one election, by ranking their choices (1-2-3).  What's more, Los Angeles taxpayers would save $8 to $9 million per election.

Several leaders who won last night have endorsed IRV:  Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, Councilmember Ed Reyes, Council President Eric Garcetti, Controller-Elect Wendy Greuel, School Board President Monica Garcia, and Community College District President Kelly Candaele.

In addition, five Los Angeles candidates who advanced to the May 19 runoff also support IRV:  Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich (City Attorney), Paul Koretz (City Council District 5), David Vahedi (City Council District 5), Nancy Pearlman (Community College Seat 6), and Angela Reddock (Community College Seat 2).  A full listing of yesterday's election results can be found here.  (Note:  As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, New America Foundation does not make any candidate endorsements.)

If we had used IRV last night, we would have avoided runoffs for all of those races.  In one runoff-bound race, Nancy Pearlman received 49 percent of the vote; her nearest competitor, 13 percent.  In another, Angela Reddock received 48 percent of the vote; her nearest competitor, 19.5 percent.

However, since neither Pearlman nor Reddock received a majority (50 percent plus 1), voters must vote on these races -- again.

IRV has united a broad, bipartisan group of leaders throughout Los Angeles, including:  Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles League of Women Voters, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Mexican American Bar Association, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, Los Angeles Controller-Elect Wendy Greuel, State Board of Equalization Chair Judy Chu, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and State Controller John Chiang.

The cost savings from IRV could not come at a better time.  As a result of the state's $42 billion budget deficit, California taxpayers must soon pay higher state sales and income taxes.  If that wasn't enough, LA's budget deficit is expected to bulge to a whopping $400 to $500 million next year.

More than ever, Los Angeles needs IRV. (Gautam Dutta is Deputy Director, Political Reform Program, New America Foundation.)  ◘

Posted by erniemixon on 03/06/2009
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