Let’s stop dragging out our elections
October 26, 2007
If you are tired of needing two elections every time we vote for mayor or council in Aspen, you’ll soon have a chance to do something about it.
On Nov. 6, you can vote to improve Aspen’s electoral system by approving a change to the city charter that will institute an instant runoff voting system. As instant runoff voting is an umbrella term, and there are similar but slightly different methods to accomplish this effort; ballot question 2B will approve changing the city charter section regarding voting and instruct the city council to convene a task force to recommend the best system for Aspen.
This reform will allow each voter to rank council and mayor candidates in order of preference so that in elections where there is no initial majority winner, an “instant” runoff to determine the voter’s preference can be conducted without the need, as is now the case, for an additional election cycle and runoff.
Think of it this way: If you walk into an ice cream shop to order a chocolate cone only to discover the shop is sold out, you could choose to walk away. It’s far more likely you’d choose your next favorite flavor; should they be out of that flavor as well, then you’d choose your third favorite.
This is akin to instant runoff voting. Should anyone wish to do more research into these methods, I suggest you go to http://www.fairvote.org on the Web.
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An instant runoff system saves money for the city and candidates, raises voter turnout, reduces negative campaigning, elects candidates by a majority rather than a plurality, allows more candidates to get involved in a race without being accused of “spoiling” the election, and makes runoff cycles and additional elections unnecessary. Money is saved by the city because there is no more need for another election, and candidates save money by not having to wage a second campaign. Voter turn out is raised relative to a later runoff because turnout is traditionally higher in the general election than in runoffs. This has clearly been the case in Aspen’s runoff elections.
This sort of voting system is not new. It began in the Progressive Era, and these methods are seeing renewed interest and adoption by progressive cities all over the country, such as, Cambridge, Mass.; Burlington, Vt.; San Francisco; and Tacoma Park, Md. It is supported by Moveon.org and Robert’s Rules of Order. The entire city council voted in favor of asking the electorate to make this change to the charter to improve our system, and both they and I encourage you to do so.
Aspen City Council