Aspen voters vote to ditch IRV
November 3, 2010
ASPEN – Instant runoff voting’s tenure in Aspen lasted only one election, as preliminary numbers reported by Pitkin County election officials Tuesday night showed voters wanted to get rid of it.
Referendum 2B asked Aspen residents if they wanted to reinstate the voting method the city used prior to instant runoff (IRV), and they said yes. Of the 2,534 voters who weighed in on the issue, 1,654, or 65.3 percent, said IRV should go, while 880, or 34.7 percent of voters, said they wanted to keep it.
The numbers are unofficial.
Municipal elections will now be determined with a traditional runoff model, in which a second election is held between the top two candidates if neither reaches a majority, or 50 percent plus one vote, in the primary race.
The Aspen City Council decided to ask the voters whether they wanted to keep the controversial voting technique near the end of August. The decision came after a long, vitriolic political battle between city officials and a small group of local election activists, who said there were numerous problem with the May 2009 election. Those arguments included the method the city used to tabulate the IRV ballots.
IRV was approved by Aspen voters in November 2007, after a campaign for the method established it as one that would save government money by not requiring the expensive runoff, while still achieving a true majority for the winning candidate.
But critics have said the method is flawed because, they say, it is more prone to “non-monotonicity,” a mathematical phenomenon that can cause a candidate who received fewer votes than other candidates to win.
“Our traditional runoff system really gives us a chance to get to know our candidates better,” Marilyn Marks, perhaps the most vehement local critic of IRV, told GrassRoots TV as numbers rolled in Tuesday night.
FairVote, a national nonprofit agency that promotes progressive election methods and is the most public supporter of IRV, says the technique does not lend itself to non-monotonicity more than other methods, like traditional runoffs.