Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
Ferndale, MI - November 2, 2004 - Proposal B on Ferndale, Michigan's ballot appears headed for passage overwhelmingly. With just one of the city's sixteen precincts and absentee ballots remaining to be counted the measure currently has been approved by 5301 voters versus 2212 against, a 71-29% margin, as of midnight. The proposal amends Ferndale's city charter to provide for election of the mayor and City Council through the use of an Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) system pending the availability and purchase of compatible software and approval of the equipment by the Ferndale Election Commission.
The Ferndale proposal was widely endorsed with supporters including Mayor Robert Porter, Council-members Helen Marie Weber, Scott Galloway and Craig Covey, the Ferndale Democratic Club, Green Party of Michigan, Michigan Libertarian Party, The Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, Alliance for Democracy of Metro Detroit, Triangle Foundation, Michigan Election Reform Coalition and Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM). Instant Runoff Voting has also been widely endorsed nationally by leading figures such as Democrats Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, Republican John McCain, organizations such as the California, Washington and Vermont League of Women Voters, and media outlets such as USA Today.
Instant Runoff Voting is a simple to use, full-choice voting system whereby, when three or more candidates run for a single seat, voters are allowed to rank the candidates 1-2-3, etc. rather than simply choose their one favorite candidate. If no candidate wins a majority of votes on the first count, the last place candidate is eliminated, and then all ballots are counted again with each counting for the highest ranked candidate still in contention. This process continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes and is declared the winner. In Ferndale's two seat Council races, the process would be similar. Runoffs would be held until one candidate wins over 50% of the votes, earning the first seat. This candidate would then be removed from the counting and a similar process would take place until a second person won over 50%, earning the second seat.
IRV eliminates the "spoiler" problem, whereby a candidate who cannot win him or herself gets enough votes to throw the election to some other candidate who is favored by a minority. This problem gained national attention in the 2000 presidential election when Ralph Nader received more votes in some states than the difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore's totals, potentially swinging the election to Bush. However, "spoiler" incidents have also occurred in many other races including the 1992 presidential election (where Ross Perot "spoiled the election for George Bush, Sr.) and Michigan's 2002 attorney general's race (where Green candidate Jerry Kaufman "spoiled" Democrat Gary Peters).
In addition, IRV has been shown to increase voter turnout, since voters are allowed to express their complete set of preferences and thus feel empowered. It encourages more candidates to run for office and promotes positive issue-based campaigns, discouraging mudslinging among candidates who must compete for second and third place votes from each others' supporters. It also more accurately gauges the true level of support that exists for each candidate since voters are no longer afraid that a vote for their favorite candidate may help his or her political opposite.
Ferndale follows in the footsteps of other cities that have recently passed related measures including San Francisco and Berkeley, California. San Francisco's residents passed Proposition A by a 55%-45% margin in March 2002, adopting Instant Runoff Voting to elect the mayor, Board of Supervisors, district attorney, sheriff, treasurer, city attorney, public defender, and tax assessor. The system was used today for the first time there to fill several Supervisor seats. Berkeley, CA residents passed Measure I on March 2, 2004 by a margin of 72%-28%, enabling the use of IRV to elect the mayor, City Council and auditor, as soon as the system is deemed cost-effective to implement.
The system is also used to elect the president of Ireland, the mayor of London, the Australian House of Representatives and in other countries throughout the world. It is used by many professional organizations including the American Political Science Association. In addition to being considered in cities and states across the country, H.R. 5293, recently introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., would require states to conduct general elections for Federal office using an instant runoff voting system.
Ferndale for Instant Runoff Voting coordinator Howard Ditkoff said, "We are so proud of the good citizens of Ferndale. Today they expressed clearly their desire for an improved democracy where no candidate is a 'spoiler', where no vote is wasted, where all elected officials enjoy majority support, and where voters can vote their hopes rather than their fears. In doing so, they have set a hopeful example to Michigan and the nation. We thank all of our supporters and wonderful volunteers for their hard work and effort to bring attention to this crucial and fundamental reform in our election system, which we hope will be implemented even more widely in the near future."