Ruling blocks Instant Runoff Voting for October elections

Ruling blocks Instant Runoff Voting for October elections

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - There are new questions about how voters will cast their ballots in the city’s municipal election in October.

Friday, the Tennessee Election Coordinator issued a ruling that ranked choice voting could not be implemented.

It's looking like this will end up in court, where a judge would decide how Memphis voters will get their voices heard.

“We need to get the law clarified as soon as possible,” said law professor Steve Mulroy from SAVE IRV.

Mulroy is a proponent of instant runoff voting, and his group SAVE IRV was victorious in a contentious November referendum where city voters declined to repeal it.

The system allows voters to rank candidates, eliminating runoff elections.

Memphis voters approved it in 2008 but it hasn't been rolled out for an election yet.

State election coordinator Mark Goins said Friday in a written ruling it can't be used in the October municipal election amid concerns over its legality.

IRV can't be used in municipal election

“We are convinced that it is wrong and ultimately a court will probably agree with us,” Mulroy said.

County administrator of elections Linda Phillips said the voting machines can rank up to three candidates. However, not all the machines are on track for replacement.

“This problem is really two-fold,” Phillips said. “Not only do you have to have a clear path under state law for it to be permitted but you also have to have some rules written.”

Phillips said her office has no formal guidance on how to carry out IRV.

“Everyone is accustomed to voting the way they currently vote,” said Memphis City Councilmember Berlin Boyd.

Boyd helped lead a last-ditch council campaign to repeal IRV before the November election, but the effort failed.

Boyd says Friday's ruling by Goins is in the best interest of Memphis voters.

“You have to educate people about the changes taking place and the types of changes taking place if you have an election in IRV,” Boyd said.

The election commission will discuss this issue at their meeting Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Their options are that they can ask Goins to re-consider, let the decision stand, or file their own lawsuit.

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