IRV in the States

by Erik Connell // Published February 19, 2009
I've been tracking instant runoff voting in the states. Most of our success with IRV has been in cities and counties, of course, but ultimately major changes are going to come from the states. And indeed, some interesting state legislators have gotten interested in IRV over the years – a certain State Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama was the lead sponsor of pro-IRV legislation in his state of Illinois in 2002, for example.

There are currently 10 bills in 7 states making their way through their respective state legislatures that have to do with IRV. We expect others to be introduced shortly. Let's take a look at them, state by state. Also, a big thanks goes out to the sponsors of these bills!


In the beautiful state of Hawaii, SB 670 would provide for IRV for all elections in which no primary election is held. Sen. Les Ihara Jr. is the lead sponsor.


In the Kentucky House of Representatives, HB 238 would enact IRV for judicial elections. It would also save the state money by doing away with judicial primaries. This bill's lead sponsor is Representative Adam Koenig.


Two bills, HB 463 in the Missouri House of Representatives, and its Senate counterpart SB 303, would amend existing state law to allow municipalities in the state to use IRV. The lead sponsors are Representative Jake Zimmerman on the House side and Senator Jeff Smith in the Senate.

New Jersey

The garden state has a bill that was introduced in the State Senate, SJR 43, which would create a commission to study IRV. The commission would report its findings to the legislature within six months. Senator Bill Baroni is the lead sponsor.

New York

In the New York State Assembly, A 3281 was introduced to would establish IRV for certain local elections with three or more candidates, ensuring that elected officials would be majority winners. The lead sponsor is Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.


In the Oregon State Senate, they are considering two nearly-identical bills, SB 29 and SB 321. Both would allow municipalities in Oregon to adopt IRV. SB 29 is garnering more attention, as it has received a hearing by the Senate Rules Committee, whereas SB 321 has not, and is not likely to. Since the bills would have virtually the same effect, pro-IRV groups and individuals are choosing to focus their efforts on SB 29. SB 29 was introduced at the request of Sen. Kate Brown prior to her becoming Oregon Secretary of State, while Senator Jackie Dingfelder introduced SB 321.


The state where I attended college, the Evergreen state, is considering SB 5536, a hybrid of IRV and Washington's "top two" primary. In the "top two" system, voters select two candidates in the state's primary, regardless of party, to go on to the general election. This bill would enact a system in which IRV would be used to select two candidates in the primary that would go on to the general election. Its lead sponsor is Senator Eric Oemig.

While FairVote supports IRV, it has no stance on this sort of system.

If you live in one of these states, be sure to write or call you representatives and ask them to support your state's bill!