Amendment 3 is first step
Pierce County Charter Amendment 3 will replace the pick-a-party primary with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) for county level officials except the Prosecuting Attorney and judges. For those of us who want to see IRV replace the pick-a-party primary completely in the state of Washington, Amendment 3 should be seen as a first step towards that goal.
Why does Amendment 3 only affect county level officials?
The Pierce County Charter Review Commission is only able to propose changes to the Pierce County Charter which is the constitution for the county. Further, the changes which can be proposed are governed by Article XI, Section 4 of the Washington State Constitution. This part of the state constitution allows the county is choose which officials to elect and how to elect them with the exception of the Prosecuting Attorney and the judges. The Charter Review Commission went as far as the law would allow it to go.
So if Amendment 3 is the first step, what would be the subsequent steps?
1) The Charter Review Commission recommended to the County Council that in the event that Amendment 3 passes they should request the state legislature to allow the County to elect its Prosecuting Attorney and judges using IRV. Obviously, this follow-up would make sense to do. The state legislature has passed similar legislation in the past, so we would have a good shot at accomplishing this.
2) In addition, to better leverage the IRV software we should ask the state legislature to allow local jurisdictions in Pierce County to use IRV and eliminate this expense. For example, the Metropolitan Park District would have saved $65,000 in 2005 through using IRV to elect its Commissioners. Once again, the state legislature has passed similar legislation in the past, so the prospects are good.
3) Amendment 3 has attracted comment in the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as well as on the Dave Ross Show on KIRO. Why? People around the state are interested in the model Amendment 3 provides for ridding us of the pick-a-party primary statewide. Some have suggested that, after Amendment 3 passes, we should do a statewide initiative in 2007 or 2008 to pass Amendment 3 style reforms statewide. Some state legislators have volunteered to introduce legislation which would replace the pick-a-party primary system with IRV statewide. Which approach to the statewide problem would work remains to be seen; however, there will be people considering how to make this happen.
All of the above would be made easier and more likely with the passage of Amendment 3. While Amendment 3 is only a partial step towards replacing the pick-a-party primary with IRV statewide, it is an important step which will enable all of the rest of the steps.