Two From Column A, One From Column B: You Win

Why instant Runoffs could be an instant nightmare

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - You guys voted for instant runoffs. 
You might not remember, since it was back in 2008, but you did.
It will finally, if it's legal, go into effect in the Memphis City elections in 2019.
Here's a helpful tip - bring aspirin with you.

"It's just the 7 individual city council districts," says Shelby County Elections Coordinator Linda Phillips.
That's the first thing to know.
It will only be in Memphis City Council district elections.

The current system is this: if someone has competition in the district, you look at the numbers. "The idea is you have a majority winner," says Linda Phillips. "So if on election night, even if there are six candidates, if one has 50% plus one, then they would be the unofficial winner on election night."

If not, a runoff.
Linda Phillips attempted to show me the instant runoff system.
Where voters pick their first, second, and third choices for an office.
The votes are then swapped around, with the lowest vote-getter eliminated, with the votes going to the other candidates.
"It is complicated," she says, "... however you can watch us do it, you know? Bi-partisan teams would be counting, then you watch the size of the ballot piles change."

In a city where there seems to be problems during every election, this sounds like a recipe for disaster.
The reason it hasn't been implemented yet is because election officials didn't think they had the capabilities to do it.
Phillips says they do, so something that's been on the shelf since 2008, will be brought out and used, if its legal, in 2019.

"If this is implemented," Phillips says, "... there would have to be a strong component of education. And to me, that includes having a person at each polling place explaining how it works."

Memphis City Councilman Ed Ford is questioning the legality of this plan, so expect to hear more before the 2019 elections. 


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