California Instant Runoff Voting Act


This is the Holy Grail bill.  We can push for this after most counties have purchased touchscreen equipment.


This act adds and amends provisions of the Elections Code; therefore, existing provisions proposed to be deleted are printed in strikeout type and new provisions proposed to be added are printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.



SEC. 1. Title

This act shall be known and may be cited as the “California Instant Runoff Voting Act.”

SEC. 2. Findings and Declarations: The People of the State of California hereby find and declare all of the following:

(b) Under the existing system of plurality elections, voting for one’s first-choice candidate can help one’s last-choice candidate win.  This is called the “spoiler” or “split-vote” effect.  It is even possible that voting for one’s last-choice candidate can help one’s first-choice candidate win.  Voters must strategize, rather than vote their conscience.  This makes plurality elections an inaccurate and distorted measure of the will of the people.

(c) Current plurality elections often allow candidates to win even though a majority of voters did not cast a vote for them.

(d) Most of the world’s democracies use ranked-ballot systems to combat these problems.  The “instant runoff” method uses ranked ballots to minimize the spoiler and majority problems in single-winner races.  Ballots cast for last-place candidates are recast for their next-highest choices, and this is repeated until a candidate has a majority of remaining votes.

(e) Traditional runoff elections are not an acceptable solution for widespread use because they are expensive and time-consuming and historically have unacceptably low voter turnout.  Furthermore, unless the number of runoff elections is two fewer than the number of candidates, they do not eliminate spoiler effects as well as the instant runoff method.

(d) Because it can faithfully measure the will of the people without requiring them to make multiple trips to the voting booth, instant runoff voting is superior to plurality voting.  It is incumbent upon the state government to assess the will of the people in the most accurate, fair, efficient, and legitimate way.  Therefore, instant runoff voting should be used in all statewide single-winner elections.


SEC. 3. Purpose and Intent: The People of the State of California hereby declare their purpose and intent in enacting this act to be as follows: to enable the use of instant runoff voting in California.

SEC. 4.

A new Section 8144.5 is hereby added to the Elections Code as follows:

The preceding provisions in this Article shall not apply to statewide single-winner elections, in which case the instant runoff voting procedure shall be used.

A new Section 15450.5 is hereby added to the Elections Code as follows:

15450.5. The “instant runoff voting” procedure shall be defined as follows:

(a) The ballot shall be presented to the voters in a manner that requests that voters rank the candidates they support in order of preference.

(b) The ballots shall be counted in rounds.  In each round, all ballots from voters eligible to vote in that race shall be considered together.  The highest-ranked valid votes on voters’ ballots shall be tallied, and the candidate with the fewest votes shall be eliminated.  Votes for that candidate shall not be considered valid in subsequent rounds.

(c) Rounds shall be repeated until one candidate has a majority of valid votes.  This candidate shall be declared the winner.

(d) If resolution of a tie vote is necessary to determine the candidate to be eliminated in a given round, the tie shall be resolved by eliminating the tied candidate that had the fewest votes in successively previous rounds until the tie is resolved or all previous rounds have been considered.  If the tie cannot be resolved by this method, it shall be resolved as otherwise prescribed by law.


A new Section 15450.6 is hereby added to the Elections Code as follows:

As soon as practicable after the adoption of this statute, the Secretary of State shall prescribe uniform minimum standards for ballots and ballot counting devices, which may include computerized and networked voting and vote tabulation systems, capable of tabulating votes as prescribed in this Section.  The Secretary of State may require the use of specified brands of equipment if it determines such to be necessary to establish statewide uniformity.  The Secretary of State shall certify, within one week of any request by a county or local government, whether devices named by that county or local government meet these standards.  The State of California shall reimburse county and local governments for any funds expended on devices that have been certified as meeting these standards, so long as the devices being replaced have previously been certified as not meeting those standards.


Section 15452 of the Elections Code is hereby amended as follows:

15452.  The person who receives a plurality of the votes cast for any office is elected or nominated to that office in any election, except:

(a) An election for which different provision is made by any city or county charter.

(b) A municipal election for which different provision is made by the laws under which the city is organized.

(c) The election of local officials in primary elections as specified in Article 8 (commencing with Section 8140) of Part 1 of Division 8.

(d) A statewide single-winner election, in which case the instant runoff voting procedure shall be used.