Creates a pilot program to provide for an instant runoff voting method to be used in up to ten local governments, selected by the state board of elections, in election years 2020 and 2021; requires report to state legislature.
STATE OF NEW YORK
2015-2016 Regular Sessions
January 28, 2015
Introduced by Sens. KRUEGER, PERKINS, SQUADRON -- read twice and ordered
printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on
Elections -- recommitted to the Committee on Elections in accordance
with Senate Rule 6, sec. 8 -- committee discharged, bill amended,
ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee
AN ACT to create a pilot program to test an instant runoff voting method
of elections and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-bly, do enact as follows:
1 Section 1. Legislative findings. The current system of voting often
2 results in the election of a candidate who does not have the majority
3 support of the electorate when there are three or more candidates
4 running for an elective office. Further, where there are three or more
5 candidates for an elective office, voters often will not vote for their
6 preferred candidate to avoid "wasting" their vote on a "spoiler" candi-
7 date. Rather, they will vote against a candidate they dislike, by
8 voting for a leading candidate that they perceive as the lesser of two
9 evils. The result of the current system in multi-candidate races can be
10 the election of candidates who lack majority support.
11 The instant runoff voting method provides for the majority election
12 for elective offices. Instant runoff voting gives voters the option to
13 rank candidates according to the order of their choice. If no candidate
14 obtains a majority of first-choice votes, then the candidate receiving
15 the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Each vote cast for the
16 eliminated candidate shall be transferred to the candidate who was the
17 voter's next choice on the ballot. The process is continued until a
18 candidate receives a majority of votes.
19 There are several potential benefits to the instant runoff voting
20 method. First, voters are free to mark their ballot for the candidate
21 they truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.
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1 least preferred candidate. Second, it ensures that the elected candidate
2 has true majority support. In addition, the instant runoff voting method
3 will (1) promote higher voter turnout, and (2) encourage positive
4 campaigning, since candidates will seek second-choice and third-choice
5 votes from voters and will therefore be less likely to attack other
6 candidates and alienate voters that support other candidates as their
7 first choice. In situations where runoffs are already required, it will
8 eliminate the need for a second runoff election, with its increased
9 costs and lower voter turnout.
10 The instant runoff voting method has been the subject of increasing
11 interest across the nation. It has already been adopted by local refer-
12 enda in California, Vermont, and Massachusetts. It is under consider-
13 ation in many other states.
14 It is the purpose of this act to permit the use of the instant runoff
15 voting method on a trial basis in certain local elections in years 2020
16 and 2021. This pilot program would permit the state legislature to eval-
17 uate the broader application of the instant runoff voting method to
18 elections in New York state.
19 § 2. Definitions. 1. "Instant runoff voting method" shall mean a
20 method of casting and tabulating votes that simulates the ballot counts
21 that would occur if all voters participated in a series of runoff
22 elections, whereby the voters rank candidates according to the order of
23 their choice and, if no candidate has received a majority of votes cast,
24 then the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated and
25 the remaining candidates advance to another counting round. In every
26 round, each ballot is counted as one vote for the highest ranked advanc-
27 ing candidate.
28 2. "Local government" shall mean a county, city, town, village, or
29 school district.
30 § 3. Pilot program. 1. The state board of elections shall select local
31 governments in which to conduct a pilot program during the 2020 and 2021
32 elections for local office using instant runoff voting. The state board
33 shall select up to ten local governments in 2020 and up to ten local
34 governments in 2021.
35 2. In selecting local governments the state board shall seek diversity
36 of population size, regional location, and demographic composition. The
37 pilot program shall require the approval of the county board of
38 elections where said county board conducts the election for the local
39 government. Said pilot program shall also require the approval of the
40 local government that has been selected for the pilot program.
41 3. The state board shall monitor the pilot program and issue a report
42 with its findings and recommendations to the state legislature by April
43 1, 2022.
44 4. The state board shall implement the necessary regulations in order
45 to implement this act within ninety days after it shall have become law.
46 § 4. Instant runoff voting method; ballots. 1. For elections subject
47 to the instant runoff voting method, the ballot must be simple and easy
48 to understand and allow a voter to rank candidates in order of choice. A
49 voter may include no more than one write-in candidate among that voter's
50 ranked choices for each office. If feasible, ballots must be designed so
51 that a voter may mark that voter's first choices in the same manner as
52 that for offices not elected by the instant runoff voting method.
53 2. Instructions on the ballot must conform substantially to the
54 following specifications, although subject to modification, based on
55 ballot design and voting machine:
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1 "Vote for candidates by indicating your first-choice candidates in
2 order of preference. Indicate your first choice by marking the number
3 "1" beside a candidate's name, your second choice by marking the number
4 "2" beside a candidate's name, your third choice by marking the number
5 "3" beside a candidate's name and so on, for as many choices as you
6 wish. You may choose to rank only one candidate, but ranking additional
7 candidates will not hurt the chances of your first-choice candidate. Do
8 not mark the same number beside more than one candidate. Do not skip
10 3. A sample ballot for an election subject to the instant runoff
11 voting method must illustrate the voting procedure for the instant
12 runoff voting method. Such a sample ballot must be included with each
13 absentee ballot.
14 4. The appropriate board of elections shall ensure that the necessary
15 voting system, vote tabulation system, or other similar or related
16 equipment shall be available to accommodate the instant runoff voting
17 method where the instant runoff voting method is required by this act.
18 § 5. Instant runoff voting method; procedures. The following proce-
19 dures shall apply in determining the winner in an election subject to
20 the instant runoff voting method:
21 1. The first choice marked on each ballot must be counted initially by
22 election officials. If one candidate receives a majority of the votes
23 cast, excluding blank and void ballots, that candidate shall be declared
25 2. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes cast at
26 the end of the initial count, the candidate receiving the fewest first-
27 choice votes shall be eliminated. Each vote cast for the eliminated
28 candidate shall be transferred to the candidate who was the voter's next
29 choice on the ballot.
30 3. Candidates with the fewest votes shall continue to be eliminated,
31 with the votes for such candidates transferred to the candidate who was
32 each voter's next choice on the ballot until a candidate receives a
33 majority of the votes cast, excluding blank and void ballots. When a
34 candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, that candidate shall be
35 declared the winner.
36 4. If a ballot has no more available choices ranked on it, that ballot
37 must be declared exhausted. Where a ballot skips one or more numbers,
38 the ballot must be declared exhausted when the skipping of numbers is
39 reached. A ballot with the same number for two or more candidates must
40 be declared exhausted when these double numbers are reached.
41 5. In the case of a tie between candidates for last place, and thus
42 elimination, occurring at any stage in the tabulation, the tie shall be
43 resolved so as to eliminate the candidate who received the least number
44 of votes at the previous stage of tabulation. In the case of a tie to
45 which a previous stage does not apply, or such previous stage was also a
46 tie, the tie shall be resolved by drawing lots. However, if the tie
47 occurs when there are only two candidates remaining, the tie shall be
48 resolved in accordance with the provisions of this act.
49 § 6. Voter education. Where an election is subject to the instant
50 runoff voting method, the appropriate board of elections shall conduct a
51 voter education campaign on the instant runoff voting system to famil-
52 iarize voters with the ballot design, method of voting, and advantages
53 of determining a majority winner in a single election. The board of
54 elections shall use public service announcements, as well as seek other
55 media cooperation to the maximum extent practicable.
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1 § 7. Construal. All elections held by the instant runoff voting meth-
2 od pursuant to this act shall be subject to all the other provisions of
3 the election law and all other applicable laws relating to elections, so
4 far as is applicable and not inconsistent with this act.
5 § 8. Severability. If any provision of this act or the application
6 thereof shall for any reason be adjudged by any court of competent
7 jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair, or
8 invalidate the remainder of this act, but shall be confined in its oper-
9 ation to the provision thereof directly involved in the controversy in
10 which such judgment shall have been rendered.
11 § 9. This act shall take effect immediately, and shall remain in full
12 force and effect until December 31, 2022 when upon such date the
13 provisions of this act shall expire and be deemed repealed.