Why Memphis Needs RCV
Memphis voters tend to show up for general elections but are unable or unwilling to participate in runoff elections.
Runoff elections are triggered six weeks after the general election in races where no single candidate secures a 50%+1 majority. The top two most popular candidates advance to the runoff election.
The results of the 2015 City Council elections provide a good example of low voter turnout in Memphis.
Memphis City Council Races
2015 General and Runoff Election Results
In 2015, City Council districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 required runoff elections. Voter participation dropped nearly 76% in the runoff compared to the general.
General and Runoff Election Results
The graphs below show the combined totals for the districts that required runoff elections. Nearly 53,000 people participated in the general election but didn’t participate the runoffs.
RCV would allow more people to participate in the electoral process by combining the general election and the runoff election into a single election.
Memphis Has RCV
But elected officials block its implementation
In 2008, Memphis voters approved RCV for municipal elections with a 72% approval. RCV was set to take effect in 2011, but the Shelby County Election Commission delayed implementation for another 8 years.
In 2018, as the county finally prepared to implement RCV, the Memphis City Council attempted to repeal it with a referendum to amend the city charter. Voters confirmed RCV by rejecting the City Council’s repeal efforts.
In early 2019, the appointed state elections coordinator argued against RCV from a technical standpoint, creating chaos and confusion for Memphis and other Tennessee municipalities considering these election reforms, including Nashville.