Local 24 News political analyst & commentator Otis Sanford on city elections & runoffs

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on city elections and runoffs.

In the run up to last week’s city election, more than a few people said they were confused by what they called the complicated and convoluted way of voting in city council races. They simply could not understand why some council seats represented single districts and others were in so-called super districts. Or why some races allowed for runoffs when others did not.

We’ve had this process in city elections 24 years, and yet some voters still claimed they were confused. It’s not possible for me to clear up the confusion in one commentary. But this does raise a legitimate issue. And that is, do we really need runoffs at all? And if we do, why not for every race on the city ballot?

The current process stems from a 1991 federal court order banning runoffs in citywide elections, including for mayor. The reason for the ban was that runoffs discriminated against African-Americans, who before the 1990 census were the minority population in Memphis. Now, black residents make up about 63% of the city’s population. But no one has taken the initiative to revisit the process.

I believe it’s about time we do. The instant runoff voting that was approved by voters years ago, has never been implemented. So maybe it’s time that we start from scratch. And come up with a better, less complicated way of picking city council members. And that’s my point of view.

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