November 15, 2005

The Hopkins Charter Commission recommended this evening, by a unanimous voice vote, that the charter be amended to use Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) for city elections. The recommendation was made to the Hopkins City Council to adopt IRV by ordinance. This action will require a unanimous vote of the council. The recommendation will come before the council in January 2006. A public hearing will be held as part of the council's deliberations.

This action was preceded by city sponsorship of an Alternative Voting Task Force which met over the past year to study a variety of voting methods for possible use in Hopkins. The task force recommended that the city adopt Instant Runoff Voting for city elections. The task force issued a report which can be read at Fran Hesch, IRV activist and former Hopkins City Council member, chaired the Alternative Voting Task Force and is also chair of the city's charter commission.

The original 1947 Hopkins charter provided for "preference voting" to elect the mayor by instant runoff voting and the council by the ranked ballot method of proportional representation known variously as Single Transferable Vote, the Hare Method, and Choice Voting.

There were close to two dozen cities in the United States to use preference voting in the first half of the 20th century. All but Cambridge Massachusetts abandoned the system. In 1959, Hopkins did the same, changing to the current plurality method, or "First Past the Post," in which the candidate(s) with the most votes win(s).

If Hopkins adopts Instant Runoff Voting, it will be the first of the original 21 preference voting cities to go back to the method after repealing it. However, in Hopkins' case, the proposal being forwarded does not use proportional representation for electing the council, but rather a "multi-winner IRV" method that provides for each member of the council to be elected by a majority of the voters.