Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Intentionally Confounding Incumbents

Memphis, ballot, instant runoff, term limits

The three issues on the ballot in Memphis this November are “not complicated,” writes Commercial Appeal columnist David Waters, “unless you read the actual ballot questions.”

Which is all most voters will see.

All three directly affect the self-interest of members of the Memphis City Council, which placed them on the ballot and determined the language voters will attempt to decipher. 

Waters called that ballot wording “incomprehensible” and “intentionally confounding.” His newspaper colleague, Ryan Poe, accused the council of “trying to stack the deck.”

The first measure would weaken the council’s term limits, passed in 2011 with a 78 percent vote and just about to kick in. The ballot language, Mr. Poe explains, “reads like voters are being asked to place limits on council members . . . rather than extend them.” By an extra term.

The second issue would repeal Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), which was brought forth by citizen petition and enacted via a 71 percent yes vote. The confusing ballot wording brings up a 1991 federal court decision without providing voters any context or explanation.

Though IRV has not yet been used, council incumbents fear it.* This becomes especially clear when you discover that the third ballot question is actually a sneakier, second attempt to repeal IRV.

“Instant runoffs, and run-off elections in general, tend to make it easier for challengers to unseat incumbents in multi-candidate district races,” argues Waters. He adds, “Incumbents generally become stronger the longer they are in office.”

To incumbent politicians, reform is a dirty word. 

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.


* Back in February, the council was caught paying a lobbyist to convince state legislators to restrict their city’s ability to implement Instant Runoff Voting. 

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By: Redactor

1 Comment

  1. Lynn Atherton Bloxham says:

    Your exlanation is clear

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