Save IRV Memphis, a grassroots coalition opposed to repealing the instant runoff voting (IRV) provision, made a public display of that opposition on Tuesday at the IBEW 474 Hall.
Save IRV Memphis Spokesperson Theryn C. Bond said this is not an issue that is split by party affiliations.
“This is a collective effort across party lines,” Bond said. “In November we want you to say no to repealing IRV and term limits.”
In 2008, the Memphis Charter Review Commission unanimously voted to place a pro-IRV referendum on the ballot. In a citywide referendum election, voters supported IRV by 71 percent.
After years of delayed implementation by the Shelby County Election Commission, newly hired county election administrator Linda Phillips has said IRV is indeed doable. She plans to implement it in 2019 for the seven single-member-district City Council races that now use traditional runoff elections.
Under IRV, voters rank their first, second and third choices for City Council. If one candidate earns a majority of first choices, he or she wins. If not, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. If a voter’s top choice is eliminated, that vote is added to the totals of the voter’s second choice.
The process repeats until a remaining candidate has a majority of the votes and is declared the winner. The system is used in at least 11 cities, including Minneapolis, San Francisco and Oakland. Meanwhile, IRV opponents cite five cities that have repealed instant runoff voting,
Last December, the Memphis City Council voted unanimously for a referendum repealing instant runoff voting.
Bond urged IRV proponents to spread the word about the need to vote against the repeal referendum.
“We have a long road ahead of us and the council has gone to extreme lengths to avoid the voice of the people,” Bond said.
On Tuesday, IRV supporters in attendance including Memphis City Council Chairman Emeritus (and former Interim Mayor) Myron Lowery and Shelby County Commission District 7 candidates Tami Sawyer and Sam Goff.
Goff, a Republican, agreed that, “This isn’t partisan. It’s not Republican or Democrat.”
Lowery pointed out that the Memphis Charter Commission concluded that instant runoff voting saved voters time and money.
“It’s shown to save time by eliminating runoffs and to save money by eliminating the cost of runoffs,” he said. “You have to ask yourself why the city council is against what it approved 10 years ago. … Ask yourself who benefits if we repeal term limits, certainly not the voters.”
Sawyer, a Democratic, voiced her support for Save IRV Memphis. Memphians should not be forced to vote again on instant runoff voting, she said.
“Let IRV stand, let it be implemented. Let us see how the process works before people take it out of our hand,” Sawyer said, emphasizing that Barack Obama had championed instant runoff voting when he was a state senator in Illinois.