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Tennessee lawmakers pass ban on instant runoff voting

Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 10:21 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County voters voted twice in two separate elections in favor of instant runoff voting (IRV).

Monday, both the Tennessee House and Senate passed bills to ban the ranked style voting in the state. The move got bi-partisan support.

A more than decade-long fight in Tennessee is just a governor’s signature away from coming to an end.

Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown and Representative Kevin Vaughan of Collierville filed legislation last month to ban instant runoff voting in the state. It passed both chambers Monday evening.

“It’s a very confusing and complex process that ultimately leads to lack of confidence in the vote total,” said Kelsey.

IRV allows voters to rank their choice of candidates when going to the polls, ultimately eliminating the need for runoff elections.

Supporters say the move saves money and is a better option versus the typically low turnout during runoffs. The House version of the bill was supported by Memphis Democrats Joe Towns and Barbara Cooper.

“One reason that we should at least take a breath before we completely outlaw something is that it went on the ballot against the wishes of the politicians from both sides,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro of Nashville. “The Democrats didn’t like it. The republicans didn’t like it, but you know who did like it, the voters.”

In both 2008 and again in 2018, Shelby County residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of instant runoff voting. It was never implemented due to being caught up in litigation.

The latest lawsuit was filed just last week by multiple Memphis activists.

The League of Women Voters Tennessee said Monday night, they regret that the state legislature chose to override the will of the citizens.

“Our non-partisan organization encourages election methods that provide the broadest voter representation possible, have a positive effect on voter participation, and are expressive of voter choices,” said Debby Gould, president of the League of Women Voters Tennessee.

“I’m going to stand in support of this bill,” said Republican Senator Richard Briggs of Knoxville. “Tennessee has the reputation of having some of the safest, most reliable elections with integrity of any state in the country, and I don’t know if we really want to change that.”

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