Instant Runoff Voting bill proposed to ‘efficiently’ choose local leaders

December 14, 2023

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by Lauren Lennon

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) — A different way to choose local leaders could be in the works with State House Bill 4022.

The bill would permit South Carolina municipalities to adopt a process known as Instant Runoff Voting. The system would allow voters to rank first and last choice on a ballot in order of preference.

“Voters would go in and kind of rank the candidates the first time out,” said Gibbs Knotts, a College of Charleston political science professor.

“Then if nobody gets the majority, they eliminate the person at the bottom and see who the people who supported the person who got the least votes, who’s their second choice, they would then go to the do get distributed among the candidates.”

In some cities and towns, a winner must collect 50% of the vote plus one.

If no one hits that threshold, there’s a runoff between the top two candidates two weeks later. The proposed bill would eliminate the need to do so.

“I think one of the pros is that it’s more efficient,” Knotts said.

“It’s less expensive. It hopefully gets a candidate that more people can agree on. Some cons are that everybody doesn’t get to participate in a head-to-head contest of the two top vote-getters.”

Thursday, groups showed their support for the bill.

“It encourages candidates to focus on problem-solving instead of negative attacks and to listen to diverse opinions to find common ground instead of catering to a small vocal base,” said Frank Knapp, a co-founder of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber Of Commerce.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, who lost in a runoff in November, plans to bring a resolution in favor of the bill to the next city council meeting Tuesday.

“It allows the citizens to kind of pre-choose their top choices and be able to only have one election rather than two or three,” Tecklenburg said. “It’s just a more efficient way of doing it. Makes some common sense. Nice to have options.”

And Knotts said it doesn’t hurt to try.

“You’re not locked in forever,” he said. “You can always change your electoral system.”

News 4 out to Charleston Mayor-elect William Cogswell to see where he stands on this bill.

His team said he is focused on his transition into office. They also said he hasn’t had the chance to look over the legislation, and will not provide comment at this time.

The House bill is in the judiciary committee and will be taken up when the legislative session resumes in 2023.

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