June 7, 2019

Tennessee Electoral Reform Advocates Launch New Grassroots Organization

Tennessee Electoral Reform Advocates Launch New Grassroots Organization

Ranked Choice Tennessee is a new organization, headquartered in Memphis, that advocates and educates around Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Even though Memphis voters have voted on this issue three times in two record-turnout elections, policymakers at various levels of government are erecting barriers to its implementation. Ranked Choice Tennessee is dedicated to ensuring a smooth and quick implementation of RCV in the 2019 Memphis municipal election. RCTN also advocates for RCV throughout the state of Tennessee.

Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting, is an electoral reform that brings more people into the democratic process while saving time and money. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference and if a candidate does not receive a majority of first-round votes, a runoff is simulated using the second- and third-choice preferences. Unlike traditional runoffs that disenfranchise voters or plurality voting that allows for vote splitting, Ranked Choice Voting preserves majority rule with just one trip to the polls.

Ranked Choice Tennessee is pursuing several avenues to guarantee the use of RCV: passage of a local option bill, collaboration with the Memphis City Council, and advocating for RCV in Nashville.

Local Option

Ranked Choice Tennessee is working with our state legislature to enact a local option bill. This bill, SB970, will expressly permit municipalities to use RCV if citizens vote on it. This will bypass all of the obstructionism that Memphians have had to endure from their own city council. Utah recently passed similar legislation with enthusiastic bipartisan support.

Collaboration with the Memphis City Council

The local elections coordinator, Linda Phillips, has requested policy guidance from the city council on some aspects of RCV, including the number of rankings, tiebreak procedures, and batch elimination. These and other issues are easy to address. The City Council can and should address these issues in order to implement the will of Memphis voters. RCTN has already drafted suggested policy legislation. It’s up to the Council to act on this.

Nashville and beyond

RCV legislation was introduced in the Metro Nashville Council but due to a technical issue, the legislation was not passed. RCTN is setting the stage for a city-wide education and outreach efforts about the benefits of ranked choice voting.

Furthermore, Ranked Choice Tennessee looks to expand RCV to communities across that state that stand to benefit from more democratic elections.