Sarasota voter to decide on instant run-offs

10/02/07 Mitch E.Perry
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Next month, citizens in Sarasota will vote on Instant Runoff Voting (IRV).

IRV gives voters one vote, but allows them to rank candidates in order of preference.

The system has been used in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada for years, and has been adopted by some San Francisco and other U.S. cities in recent years.

Anthony Lorenzo is the chairperson with the Coalition for Instant Run off Voting in Florida. Although the system is not well know in the U.S., Lorenzo says his group has been educating Sarasotans for awhile.

Supporters say that IRV eliminates the need for runoff elections.

If anyone receives a majority of the first choice votes, that candidate is elected. If not, the last place candidate is defeated, just as in a runoff election, and all ballots are counted again, but this time each ballot cast for the defeated candidate counts for the next choice candidate listed on the ballot. The process of eliminating the last-place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote.

Some worry that IRV might prove too complex for the average voter. But IRV advocate Anthony Lorenzo scoffs at that suggestion.

And Lorenzo says the only type of resistance he’s heard in the community has come from Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent.

Supervisor Dent did not return our phone call by airtime.

Rob Ritchie is the executive director with Fair Vote, a national organization based in Washington whose mission is to achieve secure and universal access to participation.

Ritchie says IRV has been passed an approved a ballot measure in the U.S since 2004. He says the only concerns have been how the system will be implemented, but that’s changing.

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