Blog

Letter from Program Director, Memphis, Nashville

Letter from the Program Director – May

First, as you may remember, we were supporting a bill in the legislature that would have expressly permitted ranked choice voting in Tennessee. It was a local options bill similar to ones that have passed across the country. While we were able to successfully get the bill thorough one subcommittee in the House, it still has a few more stops in both houses before it becomes law. We will be working over the next few months to reach out to legislators to educate them about RCV and the benefits it can have for Tennessee.

In Memphis, we are still pushing for implementation in 2019, but the powers that be are still trying to put roadblocks in the way. We are working with the Memphis City Council and other stakeholders to ensure that the law is followed and that voters get what they have asked for three times, which is ranked choice voting.

Lastly, in Nashville we suffered a major setback when several of our supportive council members were unable to stay at the meeting until the RCV resolution was voted on, which wasn’t heard until 10 p.m. As a result, Nashville voters will not be able to vote on RCV this August.

That brings us to now, where RCV is still in play in Tennessee, but the major problem is that people, including lawmakers, just need to learn more about it.

We are reaching out across the state to teach people about ranked choice voting, with a specific focus on how the system counts votes. We learned in Nashville that “a little learning is a dangerous thing,” so we are going to make sure that people in this state understand what RCV is and how it works. For a very, very rough draft of what that will look like, you can watch this video.

This is where you come into the picture.

The best explainer video in the world isn’t enough to teach people about RCV. We need to reach out to groups and provide opportunities to interact with the idea directly. We need you to either identify or create those opportunities in your community, then either invite us or become trained as a Ranked Choice Tennessee speaker and lead the presentation yourself. We’re already starting out with an ambitious June calendar of events across the state that are free and open to the public:

June 7 – LWV First FridayNashville
June 8 – People’s ConventionMemphis
June 12 – League of Women Voters First Friday Redux – Nashville
June 15th – Juneteenth Celebration tabling event- Memphis
June 19 – Voter education Community PieChattanooga
June 22 – Knoxville & Voter Education Event in Memphis (10 minutes)
June 26-27 – Dem Primary DebateMemphis

If you can, please make the time to come out and join us at one of these events. You won’t regret it.

I look forward to working with you as we move into this ambitious next phase of our work. After building up our base and educating Tennesseans about RCV, we can work towards local advocacy that will give people across the state the option of using RCV in their elections.

Thank you,

Aaron Fowles

Elections, Memphis

Memphis

Background

Memphis voters voted in 2008 by an overwhelming margin to use RCV for municipal elections and reaffirmed their preference by voting against two repeal referendums in 2018. RCV would affect each municipal office differently.

RCV Impact on Local Elections

Ranked Choice Voting will impact different elections in different ways.

Mayor and City Clerk

The City of Memphis used to require mayoral candidates to receive a majority of votes in order to be elected. If no candidate received a majority in the general election, a runoff was held. In 1991, Judge Jerome Turner found that runoff elections disproportionately disenfranchised minority voters, who were less likely to make it back to the polls, and eliminated runoffs for citywide elections.

The result is that Memphis now has a plurality system for mayor where the winning candidate does not need to win a majority of votes. RCV would yield a majority candidate from a crowded field with a single visit to the polls. To fully implement the will of the voters as expressed in the 2008 referendum, the consent decree would need to be modified.

Single-member council districts

The seven single-member council districts maintained the runoff requirement after the consent decree. Historically, there is an 80% dropoff between the general and the runoff elections, and that dropoff is concentrated in low-income communities of color. RCV would allow voters to express their preferences with just one trip to the ballot box.

Superdistricts

RCV in the superdistricts can be achieved two ways. Under the current charter, the three positions can each be run as a separate RCV election for a single member. Alternatively, the Memphis charter can be amended to create two 3-member districts whose representatives are elected using Single Transferable Vote (a form of RCV) to achieve proportional representation. The second option is far simpler and more democratic, but would require an amendment to the city charter, since the current charter specifically lists the superdistrict seats as being separate. RCV would yield 3 candidates who reflect the diversity of the superdistrict.

Media Advisory, Nashville

Ranked Choice Tennessee Discusses State and Local Electoral Reforms

Media Advisory
Ranked Choice Tennessee Discusses State and Local Electoral Reforms
For Immediate Release
4.16.2019

Ranked Choice Tennessee (RCTN) will discuss the results of the Nashville Metro Council vote regarding Resolution RS2019-1617 (as amended). This resolution was introduced last year and re-introduced in 2019 by councilman David Rosenberg and is set to be voted on again on April 16th, 2019. RCTN will also discuss the status of Tennessee HB 599 / SB 970, which would give the four largest cities in Tennessee the option to reform their local elections by adopting ranked choice voting. RCTN will provide context for these electoral reforms and how state and local legislation will create positive changes to the ways in which elections are conducted in Tennessee’s four largest cities. Updates from RCTN and David Rosenberg will be given and questions will be taken on the steps of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County Historic Courthouse Plaza.

Who: Ranked Choice Tennessee and David Rosenberg, Metro Council Member District 35
What: Press Conference
When: Wednesday April 17th, 2019 11:00 AM
Where: Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County Historic Courthouse Plaza, Nashville, TN 37201
Why: These electoral reforms could have a significant impact on state and local elections.

Contact Ranked Choice Tennessee Communication Director Carlos Ochoa for more information: carlos@rankedchoicetn.org, 901-248-7915 ex. 1 or visit www.rankedchoicetn.org/presskit to learn more about the history and mechanics of ranked choice voting.

Uncategorized

Letter from the Program Director

We need to turn the tide on voter participation in Memphis. Tennessee has some of the worst turnout in the nation and our current electoral system shuts people out of the process.Traditional first-past-the-post elections disenfranchise voters at every turn, by splitting the initial vote or forcing voters to vote again in runoff elections where the turnout skews disproportionately in favor of middle- and upper-class neighborhoods.

Ranked Choice voting is an achievable and effective solution to this problem.Memphis has made;significant progress towards this goal and Nashville isn’t far behind.  We are working with the Tennessee legislature to eliminate all hurdles to implementation.

We recently attended the Unrig Summit in Nashville where we had the opportunity to share our message and mission with ordinary people from across the country, including hundreds of people in Tennessee. Voters from Memphis to Chattanooga want to change their elections. And they need our help. Will you join the electoral reform movement by making a monthly or one-timecontribution to Ranked Choice Tennessee? Your contribution ensures increased voter participation. Our average donor gives $40. Can you help us today? Your commitment to fair elections keeps our efforts alive.

Please make sure to share our newsletters and social media with your friends. Or stop by our office, pick up some advocacy cards and then have your friends sign them. These cards are great representations of a physical constituency.

You can also support the movement by participating in the People’s Convention 2.0 Agenda survey and indicate that you “Strongly Agree to using RCV in Memphis municipal elections”. It’s the last question.

Thank you and be sure to stay in touch.

Best,

Aaron  Fowles
Program Director
Ranked Choice Tennessee

Ranked Choice Voting – Nashville Fundraiser – March 29, 2019
Uncategorized

Local Election Reform Advocate Hosts Book Signing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             March 11, 2019

STEVE MULROY WILL PRESENT ON HIS NEW ELECTION REFORM BOOK

Former County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, late of the local Memphis effort to defeat the Instant Runoff Voting/Term Limits repeal referenda, will present his new election reform book at a Mar. 19 book signing at Novel bookstore.  Mulroy just published Rethinking US Election Law:  Unskewing The System with international academic press Edward Elgar Publishing.

The book, a scholarly work but written for the layman, has received positive reviews both  locally  and nationally.  Besides Instant Runoff Voting, it  tackles the Electoral College, gerrymandering, how “spoiler” candidates can split the majority vote and lead to anti-majoritarian outcomes, and other issues.  The book proposes innovative reforms like the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, Proportional Representation,  the Fair Representation Act, and Ranked Choice Voting, none of which require a constitutional amendment.

“Nothing’s more important than making sure as many as possible have their vote count,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), who has proposed Electoral College reform.  “Steve Mulroy’s book will open many people’s eye to the need for American revolution through the ballot box and at the ballot box.” 

The roughly 45-minute event starts at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 19 at Novel Bookstore, 387 Perkins Extd.  Over wine and cheese, the author will speak briefly on some proposed election reforms and take questions.  Samples of the book are available for review, along with order forms to get a copy with a special author’s discount. 

Mulroy added, “There’s no obligation to buy the book, but I’d love people to come for the discussion.  These are important issues, both in Memphis and across the country.”

For more information, contact Steve Mulroy at 901-603-8779 or smulroy@memphis.edu

Bio: Steve J. Mulroy is a University of Memphis law professor and the author of Rethinking US Election Law: Unskewing The System. He’s authored dozens of articles for scholarly publications and has published op-eds in Newsweek , US News & World Report,  the Associated Press, Salon, and Huffington Post. He’s been interviewed as a legal expert on MSNBCFOX News, CNN, and Fox Business.