Portland Ranked Choice Voting Group Splits

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Two days before the third general assembly of Ranked Choice Voting for Portland, some of the members of the organizing committee announced that they were leaving the larger group to focus exclusively on Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) as the most viable voting method reform. In response, other members have formed a new committee that will likely support Score Runoff Voting (SRV) as a voting method reform.

The Portland group had originally formed in expectation of backing a statewide initiative to use IRV in state elections. It affiliated with our RCV Oregon network as we were discussing the possible shape of such an initiative in our FaceBook group. Shortly after this some proponents of SRV joined the discussion.

When the co-petitioners of the Benton County RCV campaign asked us to delay any statewide plans as they sought state funding to implement RCV in their county, RCV Oregon agreed and counseled the Portland group to do so as well. The Portland group’s focus then shifted to a possible local RCV initiative just as the IRV vs. SRV discussion was heating up.

IRV is the most commonly used and familiar form of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). In a typical IRV election, voters rank the candidates for an office. If a candidate gets a majority of first place votes that candidate wins. But if no candidate gets a majority of first place votes, there is an “instant runoff” in which the candidate with the fewest first place votes is eliminated and their votes are transferred to each voter’s next choice on her or his ballot. The process repeats until a candidate gets a majority of votes from the ballots which have not exhausted all of their ranked candidates.

SRV is a recently created idea for a voting method which to date has never been used anywhere but claims to be an improvement on IRV. In the online discussion many former supporters of IRV have been persuaded that SRV is a promising concept. Instead of ranking the candidates for an office, the voter would score the candidates as to how much the voter supports each of them. The two candidates with the highest cumulative scores from all of the voters then go to an “instant runoff” in which the candidate scored higher by more voters wins. SRV is a mixed form of voting in which score voting is used on the ballot and in the first round of vote counting and implicit rankings of the candidates on each ballot are used for the second round of vote counting.

After the IRV proponents split with the larger group there were initially some hard feelings, but both groups have discussed their differences and agreed to share the email list which had been created at the general assemblies. At the March 5th general assembly presentations of both methods were given. After the meeting some members talked and decided to form a group which was open to considering both IRV and SRV. At this time the RCV Oregon network is in contact with both groups.

The IRV-only Portland group may be contacted via their “RCV PDX” FaceBook page.

The Portland group considering both IRV and SRV is active on an “Election Reform PDX” FaceBook page and discussion group.

The RCV Oregon Facebook Discussion Group and Loomio Discussion Group are still open to members of both groups.

There is also a group actively working to bring SRV to the election of county commissioners in Lane County (which encompasses the Eugenge/Springfield area). For more information see the “Equal Vote Coalition” website.

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