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L.A. councilman pulls bid for 'instant-runoff' voting

November 3, 2010 |  3:46 pm

A plan to ask Los Angeles voters to adopt a “ranked-choice” voting system was quietly shelved Wednesday, with its primary backer on the City Council saying he wanted to give his colleagues more time to study the idea.

Councilman Jose Huizar withdrew his proposal to place a measure on the March 8 city ballot, saying he did not have enough council votes to move forward with the plan, also known as "instant-runoff" voting. “Some of my colleagues are not comfortable with this voting procedure,” he said.

The ranked-choice system allows voters to identify their favorite candidates in order of preference, which would then be factored into the final election result. By allowing voters to name their second and third choices, the system would not require the city to hold a runoff election featuring the top two vote-getters from the primary. That, in turn, would save taxpayers money, Huizar argued.

Backers of the system, which includes the California Clean Money Campaign and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, voiced disappointment that the proposal never received a floor vote. But they praised Huizar for staging a tactical retreat that would ensure more discussion of the proposal.

League President David Holtzman said ranked-choice voting would increase voter participation because it would allow the views of the electorate to be more fully represented. He said council members dismissed the concept out of fear that it could be used against them in upcoming elections.

“They want a system that works for them,” he said.

Huizar, who represents a district stretching from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock, said the delay would give city officials a chance to examine how ranked-choice voting is working in other cities, such as Oakland and Berkeley. He also said budget analysts will have more time to determine the cost of such as system.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall