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San Jose Instant Runoff Voting Charter Amendment

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The San Jose Instant Runoff Voting Charter Amendment is a ballot measure that is contemplated for going on the ballot at some point in San Jose, in Santa Clara County.[1]

Instant-runoff voting (IRV) lets voters rank their first, second and third choices among a field of candidates. If no candidate receives more than half of the first-choice votes, the second and, if necessary, third choice votes are applied immediately until one candidate has won a majority. This technique for holding elections would allow the city to avoid the cost of sponsoring a second runoff election.

The New America Foundation, along with Common Cause held a forum in San Jose in June 2009 where Sam Liccardo, a member of the San Jose City Council, spoke in favor of moving to an IRV system. Liccardo said, "The question is how we get there."[1]

Benefits of IRV

Those who support IRV in San Jose mention these arguments in its favor:

  • It costs San Jose less. Each election in San Jose costs between $250,000-$500,000.
  • It is less expensive for candidates, since they only need to wage one campaign, rather than a primary election campaign followed by a general election campaign.
  • Voters who prefer shorter campaigns may prefer IRV.[1]

Concerns about IRV

  • Administering an IRV election is more complicated and is "a hassle for elections officials."
  • Shorter election cycles "provide less business for campaign consultants."
  • Some believe that IRV helps fringe or marginal candidates win surprise victories.
  • The runoff campaigns that IRV seeks to avoid allow voters to gain a more extensive look at the top two candidates.[1]