Instant Runoff Voting was enacted by voters by ballot initiative four years ago. It is used in mayoral elections where voters are asked to vote for their second choice if there are more than two candidates on the ballot. That second choice is only counted if a clear majority, defined as 50 percent of the voters plus one vote, is not achieved in the first round of voting.
Last November’s mayoral election was the first time town election staff had to prepare for the use of IRV, but with Mayor Stu Fraser taking 60 percent of the vote, it ultimately was not used.
On Tuesday, Town Clerk MJ Schillaci briefed council with a memo on what the implications were to implement the system, particularly the costs associated with it. Schillaci in her memo stated IRV accounted for at least $10,000 in additional election costs to the town.
During the discussion, Councilmember Thom Carnevale thanked Schillaci’s department for running an “incredible” election and that while he’s heard talk that council should ultimately do away with IRV, he believes that if it should be killed, that process should be started by citizens in the form of a ballot initiative – the same way it was enacted.
“It went to a vote of the people and 67 percent of the people supported the initiative,” Carnevale said. “If someone out there wants to eliminate this, they can petition, get signatures and then bring it to a vote. I don’t see, at the moment, that we should take direct action on this.”
Mayor Stu Fraser disagreed. “I still believe very strongly we can get rid of it,” Fraser said. “Every person I talked to [leading up to the election] raised the issue of why we are doing this. I feel testing something for 16 years seems excessive. I learned the public had a real problem with it, and I would assume that we could have two readings of an ordinance and do away with it.”
It seemed most members who spoke during the discussion disagreed with Fraser’s sentiment, and no direction was given to town staff to further review IRV.
COUNCIL CONSIDERS FUNDING SUMMER AIRLINE PROGRAM
While the Telluride Town Council didn’t officially approve the redirection of already-pledged funds from the 2011 Telluride Montrose Regional Air Organization’s winter airline guarantee program to the 2012 summer airline guarantee program on Tuesday, council did agreed to review the request when a formal plan is presented to them.
Last year, council approved a TMRAO funding request in the amount of $50,000 to go toward its winter airline guarantee program.
The loss of commercial service from US Airways last fall, coupled with other reductions in non-guaranteed flights into Montrose Regional Airport, resulted in the organization suffering a decline of approximately 20 percent in seats for the winter season.
TMRAO used approximately 25 percent of the funds it collected for the winter program from the Town of Telluride equaling about $12,750. TMRAO Executive Director Scott Stewart attended Tuesday’s council meeting to ask if the remaining $37,250 of those already-pledged funs should be used for the summer airline guarantee program, and for winter marketing.
Some members of council expressed concern about using the funds for any marketing purposes, but all generally agreed they would be willing to pledge the money toward a summer airline guarantee program if a detailed plan is presented to them.
“I believe what you are hearing from us,” Mayor Stu Fraser told Stewart, “is that we want guaranteed seats in the summertime, and we want a plan to support that.”
It is unclear when Stewart will present such a plan to council.
TELLURIDE MOVES FROM TWO PRECINCTS TO ONE
With little discussion during Tuesday’s public hearing, the Telluride Town Council unanimously adopted the second reading of an ordinance that places all municipal voters into one precinct rather than two.
According to a staff memo, the one, all-encompassing voting precinct will eliminate a considerable amount of confusion for voters who may not know what precinct they live in. At the most recent municipal election, town staff consolidated the polling places for both precincts at Rebekah Hall, and it was deemed successful, as there was space for a sufficient number of voting booths serving both precincts. Both voters’ and judges’ comments were favorable on the consolidation.
By operating one polling location, the town will achieve a small cost savings. The number of precinct judges is reduced, as well.