Organizations advocate for alternate election system in Charleston

Live 5 WCSC
December 14, 2023

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By Molly McBride

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Several statewide organizations are advocating for Instant Runoff Voting to be allowed in South Carolina.

As the bill works through the Legislature, Charleston City Council is set to vote on a resolution Tuesday that calls on the state to pass the bill, giving cities the option to have Instant Runoff Voting.

House Bill 4022 is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. It would allow municipalities to use Instant Runoff Voting as one of four election methods available.

Here’s how it works:

  • Voters can rank as many candidates as they want on the ballot in order of preference. All first choices are tallied and if a candidate receives more than half of the first choices, that candidate wins, just like in any other election.
  • If there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an “instant runoff.” The candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as their top choice will have their next choice counted.

“Since voters will have fully expressed their views on the candidates by ranking them, we already know how voters would vote in the event of a runoff,” Susan McHugh, who’s on the Board of Directors for Better Ballot South Carolina says.

Better Ballot South Carolina, the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina and Veterans for All Voters-South Carolina joined in unison Thursday to share their support for the resolution.

The groups say Instant Runoff Voting will save voters time and money, estimating roughly $200,000 of taxpayer money was spent during the recent Mayoral Runoff.

Charleston County Election Officials confirmed that the county’s current voting machines would need to be updated to accommodate Instant Runoff Voting, but new machines would not be required.

They say the method would also encourage candidates to find common ground and focus on solutions, decreasing political polarization.

“Let’s move beyond picking the lesser of two evils and move toward picking for plans, policies and programs we want,” Chris Himsl, Director of Veterans for All Voters-South Carolina, says.

Roughly 50 municipalities across the country use the Instant Runoff System, according to tracking by the advocacy group FairVote.

The resolution is set to be introduced by Mayor John Tecklenburg on Tuesday. But Frank Knapp, President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce says the resolution has nothing to do with the recent runoff.

“We’ve been pushing this for a long time, this has absolutely nothing to do with any elections in South Carolina, and we have no idea if it would have had any impact at all,” Knapp says.

Regardless of whether or not the council passes the resolution Tuesday, it will ultimately be up to the State Legislature to decide whether or not to pass the bill.


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