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Contact by phone: Howard Ditkoff at 248-968-9995
Tom Ness at 248-336-9241

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Ferndale, MI - June 11, 2004 - On June 4, 2004, Ferndale For Instant Runoff Voting (F-IRV), a ballot question committee registered in the State of Michigan, formally requested that the Ferndale City Council place a proposal on the November 2004 ballot to amend the city's charter, implementing Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in future mayoral elections. F-IRV provided Ferndale's City Council, City Clerk, City Attorney and City Manager with a formal request letter, documents discussing the cost and feasibility of implementing the system, as well as suggested amendment, ballot question and summary language drafted in conjunction with national election reform experts from the Center for Voting and Democracy (see The Council will begin its consideration of this measure at their bi-weekly meeting on Monday, June 14, 2004 at 7:30 at City Hall, 300 East 9 Mile in Ferndale.

Instant Runoff Voting is a simple to use, full-choice voting system whereby, when three or more candidates run for a single seat, voters are allowed to rank the candidates 1-2-3, etc. rather than simply choose their one favorite candidate. If no candidate wins a majority of votes on the first count, the last place candidate is eliminated, and then all ballots are counted again with each counting for the highest ranked candidate still in contention. This process continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes and is declared the winner.

This process ensures in one election that the winner has majority support, eliminating the common problem of plurality winners elected despite a majority of voters having supported other candidates. It also eliminates the "spoiler" problem that gained national attention in the 2000 presidential election when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader won over 97,000 votes in Florida, a state George W. Bush won by only 537 votes, and over 22,000 votes in New Hampshire, a state Bush won by just over 7000 votes. The "spoiler" scenario refers to the situation in which a candidate who cannot win himself gets enough votes to throw the election to another candidate who then wins with less than a 50% majority of the vote, and may also have played a role in Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential election (where Ross Perot may have "spoiled" the election for George Bush, Sr.), as well as in Michigan's 2002 attorney general's race (where Green candidate Jerry Kaufman "spoiled" Democrat Gary Peters) and nearby Royal Oak's 2001 mayoral election where Bill Urich was elected with only 45.9% of the vote.

Instant Runoff Voting also offers many other advantages including:

  • It encourages more and better candidates to run for office, by improving the tone of campaigns and removing the concern that one candidate's candidacy will hurt the campaign of a likeminded adversary and help a more disagreeable candidate to win.

  • IRV ensures that voters can support the candidate they truly like the best, without concern about helping the candidate they like least. In other words, it allows voters to vote their hopes rather than their fears.

  • Since voters can support a candidate who is unlikely to win, while still offering a preference on the other candidates, IRV eliminates "wasted votes", and offers a truer representation of the will of the electorate.

  • Since candidates must court not only first-choice votes, but also second and third-choice votes, IRV promotes positive, broad, issue-based campaigns and reduces negative attack campaigning.

  • As a result of all of these benefits, IRV may help increase voter turnout, a serious problem in Ferndale which had, for example, less than 20% voter turnout in November 2003's election.
Allowing candidates to run freely, allowing voters to vote freely, promoting positive campaigns, making every vote count and ensuring majority winners, IRV is a much more democratic system than the plurality system currently used in most American elections. That is why it has gained recognition throughout the country. It has been endorsed by national figures such as Senator John McCain, former Governor Howard Dean, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich. It has also been endorsed by many publications all across America, including USA Today. Members of many political parties, including the Democratic, Republican, Green, and Libertarian parties have endorsed it. Even Robert's Rules of Order declares IRV a more representative method than plurality elections. IRV is used by the Republican Party in Utah for party elections and US. Congressional nominations, as well as by the Irish to elect their president, by Australia to elect its House of Representatives and by London to choose its mayor.

In July 2003, Ferndale's City Council recommended 5-0 that Michigan's new voting machines accommodate IRV. Of Ferndale's five Councilmembers, three of them - Mayor Robert Porter, Councilmember Craig Covey and Councilmember Helen Marie Weber - have joined the hundreds of Michiganders already endorsing F-IRV's efforts. Covey says, "Instant Runoff Voting is an excellent way to further democratize elections, allowing candidates with the most appeal to gain majority support even with third or fourth party spoiler candidates. Ferndale could be a great place to test the IRV process." If the proposal passes, Ferndale's voters will decide in November whether to use Instant Runoff Voting for future mayoral elections. Before placing the measure on the ballot, the city's Council and Election Commission would determine the details and potential timeline of the system's implementation.

If Ferndale's voters approve the charter amendment, Ferndale would join San Francisco, which will use IRV beginning this November to elect candidates for all of its most important city offices. The Eagle Optech voting machine, manufactured by Election Systems & Software, Inc., has already been tested and officially certified for usage there by California's Secretary of State, removing any doubt as to the availability of reliable IRV-compatible voting machines. In March 2004, Berkeley, California voters passed by a 72-28% margin a measure that will enable the implementation of IRV in that city contingent upon an analysis of cost by the city's officials.

Ferndale for Instant Runoff Voting is a coalition of citizens, business owners, and organizations from Ferndale, Michigan and the surrounding community who are working to achieve a more fair, effective, and positive system of elections in Ferndale. F-IRV was officially established in October, 2003, and stems from a broader movement for election reform in Michigan known as Michigan Focus on Reforming Elections (M-FORE), created early in 2003, to discuss methods of improving the quality of Michigan's electoral process. In addition to F-IRV, M-FORE has inspired reformers to explore key election reforms like Instant Runoff Voting in numerous other localities throughout the state. Both M-FORE and F-IRV are part of a widespread national movement for Instant Runoff Voting throughout the U.S.

Interested readers can learn more, endorse, volunteer or donate easily online at:

For more information on Instant Runoff Voting, visit

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Paid for by Ferndale for Instant Runoff Voting, Box 20076, Ferndale, MI 48220