Letter: Aspen elections

Aspen’s elections aren’t over, as there will be a June 2 runoff for a City Council seat between Mick Ireland and Bert Myrin, two candidates who share many of the same supporters. Expect a big decline in voter turnout.

Turnout for the election was the second-highest in Aspen history. Instructively, the highest turnout was in 2009, the year of Aspen’s one and only instant-runoff-voting election, where voters had the power to rank candidates in order of preference. That system preserved high turnout in determining winners and promoted a generally positive campaign for council, yet post-election controversies led to instant-runoff voting losing by six votes in an advisory vote and ultimately its repeal.

I don’t expect any effort to revisit instant-runoff voting, given how effectively it was vilified, but this election is a classic example of its merits. With instant-runoff voting, no one would have been able to win a council seat without winning a majority in the first round, as opposed to the current non-majority threshold of 45 percent. Among candidates failing to win that initial majority, winners would have been the ones best able to appeal to backers of the trailing candidates in earning their backup support without the costs and turnout declines of a second election.

A study ( by political scientists Caroline Tolbert and Todd Donovan based on telephone surveys of 4,800 voters by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in seven cities holding instant-runoff-voting elections in 2013-14 (including Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota and Oakland and San Francisco in California) and 14 control cities shows that instant-runoff voting has strong majority support in the cities with it and promotes a more inclusive politics based on winners needing to reach out to more voters. For Aspen, it’s a case of what might have been.

Rob Richie

Executive director, FairVote

Takoma Park, Maryland