According to state law, if no candidate receives 50% of the vote in a November election, the top two finishers in Austin must compete in a December runoff election. Runoff elections are ubiquitous in the city of Austin: since 2014, 8 of the 11 city council members (including the mayor) were first elected in runoffs. Runoffs, which are costly (up to $1 million to administer each election cycle), experience a significant drop in voter turnout (on average, turnout declines nearly 70% from the general election).
RCV solves these challenges in one, decisive election that ensures the winner has majority support. RCV makes voting more convenient and ensures all voters can participate in choosing leaders that represent them. The reform also saves taxpayer dollars, shortens the campaign season (and campaign spending), and reduces the administrative burden on election officials.
Proposition E amends the city charter to implement RCV for local elections, provided that state law does not explicitly prohibit cities from adopting the voting method: Austin is a home-rule city, existing state law is silent on ranked choice voting, and no state court has ever ruled on the policy.
Proposition E will give Austin voters the option to rank candidates in city elections in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority outright, the last place candidate is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as their first choice will have their next choice vote counted. The process continues until a candidate has a majority.
Austin may be able to use RCV as early as the 2022 election.
Austinites for Progressive Reform helped lead the movement to support Yes on E, a broad and diverse coalition of Austinites, including more than 90 leaders from across the community.