Officials disagree on runoff elections

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By David Giuliani

Neither Las Vegas’ mayor nor three of the four City Council members got a majority of the vote when they were elected.

Only Councilwoman Diane Moore enjoys the distinction of clearing the 50 percent hurdle when she won in a landslide over then-Councilman Michael Montoya in 2006.

Council members agree that some type of runoff is needed to ensure that council winners have majority support. But they differ over how to make this happen.

They have yet to decide on a runoff system to be included in a proposed new charter, which is the city’s constitution.

Usually, cities with runoffs have a first election in which any number of candidates can run. If no candidates gets more than 50 percent, then a city holds a second election called a runoff for the top two candidates.

However, the Charter Commission, which is drafting the new document, is recommending the city enact what is known as an instant runoff procedure, which would save the cost and time of having a second election.

Under such a system, the city would allow voters to rank the candidates in order of their preferences. After counting the ballots, if no candidates receives a majority cast, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated. Each ballot would be tallied again for that office counting the vote from each ballot for the highest ranked candidate who has not been eliminated. This process would continue until a candidate receives majority support.

At last week’s council meeting, Councilman Morris Madrid said he didn’t like the instant runoff idea.

“It is such a drastic change that the community would have a hard time understanding it and having an outcome the community wants,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to do a runoff election. Then there is no question about who the people want in office.”

He said instant runoffs were the only part of the proposed charter that would keep him from supporting it.

Councilman Andrew Feldman said he supported instant runoffs, although he conceded that Madrid had valid arguments.

Councilman Cruz Roybal opposed instant runoffs, while Councilwoman Diane Moore wouldn’t say where she stood.

“We need to compromise to get it done. I’d like to use it (runoff issue) as my back-pocket ace card,” she said.

The council voted to accept the proposed charter, but further changes may be made. The document is expected to go before voters in the March 2 municipal election.