S02738 Summary:

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.
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S02738 Actions:

02/01/2016PRINT NUMBER 2738A
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S02738 Text:

                STATE OF NEW YORK
                               2015-2016 Regular Sessions
                    IN SENATE
                                    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
          expiration thereof
          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.

        S. 2738--A                          2
     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:

        S. 2738--A                          3
     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
     9  numbers."
    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
    24  elected.
    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.

        S. 2738--A                          4

     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.
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