H-3616.1  _______________________________________________


                          HOUSE BILL 2698



State of Washington      57th Legislature     2002 Regular Session


By Representatives Dunshee and Jarrett


Read first time 01/24/2002.  Referred to Committee on State Government.

Implementing Instant Runoff Voting.

    AN ACT Relating to the process for election to Washington state and federal elective office; amending RCW 29.65.050; adding a new chapter to Title 29 RCW; and creating a new section.




    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 1.  FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.  The legislature finds that it is in the public interest to adopt a voting system in which all successful candidates would win by a majority vote rather than a plurality of effective votes and that allows voters to rank candidates according to preference.  A system known as instant runoff voting (or IRV) best achieves that purpose.  The legislature further finds that voter interest and participation in elections will increase under IRV because voters have more choices and all votes will be more meaningful than under the present plurality system.  It is in the interest of participatory democracy that voters be given the opportunity to vote their true beliefs with their first choice votes, yet still being able to make effective alternative choices among the remaining candidates in case their favorite candidate is not elected.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 2.  DEFINITIONS.  The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter.

    (1) "Instant runoff voting" (or IRV) means a system of voting in which voters may rank candidates for the same office in order of preference, so that voters can rank candidates as follows:  First choice, second choice, and so on for as many of the candidates for such office as they wish, up to the maximum choices allowed.

    (2) "Choice" means an indication on a ballot of a voter's ranking of candidates for a particular office in order of preference.

    (3) "Vote" means a ballot choice that is counted toward election of a candidate under rules and procedures of this chapter.  All first choices are initially counted as votes.  Lower ranked choices are potential votes that may, according to the procedures of this chapter, be credited to a candidate as votes for the election of that candidate.  Choices made for a candidate who has been eliminated are no longer considered to be votes.

    (4) "Stage" or "stage in the counting" means a given phase in the vote counting process where votes for all remaining candidates are counted to determine whether a candidate has achieved a majority and, if not, which candidate or candidates are eliminated.

    (5) "Eliminate" or "eliminated candidate" refers to a situation where a candidate has not received sufficient votes under IRV rules and who is accordingly dropped from the field of candidates.

    (6) "Remaining candidate" means a candidate who, at a particular stage, has not been eliminated.  "Candidates who remain" are all those who have not been eliminated at the stage referred to.

    (7) "Next choice" means the highest ranked choice for a remaining candidate that has not yet been credited to the candidate indicated in that choice.

    (8) "Last-place candidate" means a candidate who has received the fewest choices among the candidates who remain at any stage.  Two or more candidates simultaneously become last-place candidates where the combined choices for all such candidates add up to less than all choices for the candidate with the next fewest number of votes.

    (9) "Exhausted ballot" means a ballot on which there are no choices for remaining candidates.

    (10) "Continuing ballot" means a ballot that is not exhausted.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 3.  INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING.  The instant runoff voting system is adopted in Washington in the manner specified in this chapter for all general elections.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 4. COUNTING OF BALLOTS.  (1) General description.  In general, instant runoff vote counting proceeds in the following manner:  In the first stage all first choice votes are counted.  If a candidate receives a majority of votes he or she is elected.  If no candidate receives a majority on the first or a subsequent stage then the last-place candidate at that stage is eliminated.  The next choices on ballots for an eliminated candidate become votes for the candidates indicated in those choices, and that process continues until all but one candidate has been eliminated.

    (2) Specific rules and procedures.  The following specific rules and procedures, subject to the conditions of section 5 of this act, govern how votes are counted for each office that is subject to instant runoff voting:

    (a) All first choices are counted in the first stage, and if a candidate has obtained a majority of those votes that candidate is elected and counting ends.

    (b) If no candidate receives a majority of votes at the first stage, then second stage counting begins by eliminating the last-place candidate, and the second choices made on ballots for the eliminated candidate become votes for the second choice candidate indicated on each of those ballots.  A candidate who has a majority of votes at that stage is elected.

    (c) If no candidate receives a majority at a previous stage, then the last-place candidate among the remaining candidates is eliminated, and the next choices made on ballots for an eliminated candidate become votes for the candidate indicated by that choice.  A candidate who has a majority of votes at that stage is elected.

    (d) The counting process continues in this manner with successive last-place candidates being eliminated.  The next choices made on continuing ballots on which votes were cast for eliminated candidates are counted for the remaining candidate or candidates indicated by those choices until all but one candidate has been eliminated.  That candidate is then elected.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 5.  VOTING CONDITIONS AND LIMITATIONS.  (1) Exhausted ballots.  (a) Once a ballot is exhausted it is disregarded and no longer counted.

    (b) A ballot indicating duplicate choices, i.e. giving the same ranking to more than one candidate for the same office, is exhausted when the duplicate choice is reached, and in that case no vote is recorded for any candidate who received a duplicate choice.

    (2) Skipped ranking.  If a ballot choice skips a ranking, then the next ranking below the skipped choice is moved up and counted as though it were the rank of the skipped choice.

    (3) Tie votes.  Ties between candidates occurring at any stage are resolved according to the general election laws of the state of Washington.

    (4) Maximum effective choices.  Only the first five choices for any one office on a ballot are counted.

    (5) Write-in votes.  Voters may write in one candidate for each office and assign a ranking to the write-in candidate along with candidates whose names are already on the ballot.

    (6) Insufficient choice votes made.  If all the ballots cast do not contain sufficient effective second and lower choices for a particular office so that at the last stage of counting no candidate has achieved a majority, then the candidate with the most votes credited to him or her is elected.

    (7) Votes for eliminated candidates.  No votes may be counted for a candidate who has been eliminated no matter how many second and lower ranked choices might otherwise have become votes for such candidate in a later stage.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 6.  APPLICABILITY.  (1) Offices covered.  This chapter applies to elections for the following offices:

    (a) The governor and all other statewide elected officials of the state of Washington;

    (b) Members of the Washington legislature;

    (c) Judges of the supreme court, court of appeals, the superior courts, and district courts of this state;

    (d) President and vice president of the United States; and

    (e) Members of the United States senate and United States house of representatives.

    (2) Types of elections covered.  This chapter applies to and governs voting in all general elections where three or more candidates are running for the same office.

    (3) Application to local government.  All general elections for offices of county, city, town, special purpose district, school district, port district, or any other local governmental unit or subdivision having elected officers are governed by IRV under this chapter unless the local governmental unit opts out of this system by appropriate action of its governing body.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 7.  BALLOT SPECIFICATIONS AND DIRECTIONS TO VOTERS.  Ballots should be simple and easy to understand.  Sample ballots illustrating voting procedures must be posted in or near the voting booth, and included in the instruction packet of absentee ballots.  Directions provided to voters must conform substantially to the following specifications:


    "You may vote for candidates for each office in order of preference.  Indicate your first choice by marking the number "1" beside a candidate's name (or by marking in the column labeled "First Choice"), your second choice by marking the number "2" (or by marking in the column labeled "Second Choice"), your third choice by the number "3" (or marking the "Third Choice" column) and so on, for as many or as few choices as you wish from one up to a total of five.  You are under no obligation to rank more than one candidate for each office, but ranking additional candidates will not affect your first-choice candidate.  Do not mark the same number beside more than one candidate (or put more than one mark in each column for the office you are voting on) per office.  Do not skip numbers."


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 8.  CHANGES IN VOTING DEVICES AND COUNTING METHODS.  Appropriate election officials of the state may provide for the use of electronic, computerized, or other devices for marking, sorting, and counting the ballots and tabulating the results, and may modify the design and form of the ballots, the directions to voters, and the details with respect to the method of marking, sorting, invalidating, and retaining of ballots, and the counting of votes.  No change may be made inconsistent with provisions, purposes, or principles of this chapter.  Election officials should provide voters with a ballot that has a special design, format, or layout for offices to which IRV applies, but the parts of ballots for contests that have only one or two candidates for the same office may differ from the parts of a ballot to which IRV applies.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 9.  CONSTRUCTION.  (1) Construction of other election statutes.  All statutes and parts of statutes relating to elections to which this chapter applies are to be construed consistent with this chapter and must be interpreted to the greatest reasonable extent to harmonize with this chapter.

    (2) Interpretation of the term "votes."  A statute that refers to "votes" in an election to which this chapter applies should be construed so that votes are counted and treated as set forth in this chapter, and the term "votes" or the phrase "greatest number of votes" or "highest number of votes" in any such statute must be interpreted to mean "votes" as defined in this chapter.


    Sec. 10.  RCW 29.65.050 and 1965 c 9 s 29.65.050 are each amended to read as follows:

    The clerk shall issue subpoenas for witnesses in such contested election at the request of either party, which shall be served by the sheriff or constable, as other subpoenas, and the superior court shall have full power to issue attachments to compel the attendance of witnesses who shall have been duly subpoenaed to attend if they fail to do so.

    The court shall meet at the time and place designated to determine such contested election by the rules of law and evidence governing the determination of questions of law and fact, so far as the same may be applicable, and may dismiss the proceedings if the statement of the cause or causes of contest is insufficient, or for want of prosecution.  After hearing the proofs and allegations of the parties, the court shall pronounce judgment in the premises, either confirming or annulling and setting aside such election, according to the law and right of the case.

    If in any such case it ((shall)) appears that another person than the one returned has the highest number of legal votes, ((said)) the court shall declare such person duly elected, consistent with the requirements of instant runoff voting contained in chapter 29.-- RCW (sections 1 through 9 of this act).


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 11.  SECTION CAPTIONS.  Captions used in this act are not part of the law.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 12.  SEVERABILITY.  If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the act or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances is not affected.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 13.  Sections 1 through 9 of this act constitute a new chapter in Title 29 RCW.


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