Registering to vote allows people not only to vote for their preferred candidate but also on referendums that amend the city or county charter or enact other laws.
Referendums happen when a city or county lets the people vote on an issue that pertains to a general question of how something operates in that specific city or county. It is then referred to the voters who live in the city or county limits to vote on whether or not the referendum should be amended or added.
“These are things that can’t be enacted by the legislature, and they are so important that voters get to decide on them,” Michael Sances, a political science professor at the University of Memphis said. “Even though they are small in the sense they are local, they can be really consequential.”
The referendums in the upcoming election, which will be Nov. 6, effect the city council and how they are elected into office. One of the referendums in this year’s election is whether the city of Memphis should implement instant runoff voting, a process which requires voters to rank their list of preferred candidates in order of who they think is most appropriate for the position to who they think is the least appropriate for that position.
The instant runoff voting reform produces a majority candidate from a variety of candidates with a single trip to the polls. This saves taxpayers’ money as the city government will not have to spend more money training staff and preparing the runoff election. If a single candidate does not receive the majority vote, then a second election must be held with the candidates receiving the fewest votes eliminated from the polls. This results in voters only being allowed to vote on the top-two most voted on candidates from the previous election.
“By voting no, you are saying we should have the reform … people should be aware of that,” Sances said. “If they support instant runoff voting, vote no. If they don’t support instant runoff voting, they need to vote yes.”
Aaron Fowles, a representative for Save IRV Memphis, an organization campaigning for instant runoff voting, said his organization is campaigning for the implementation of instant runoff voting because runoff elections often have lower turnouts.
“It’s best to view it as an opposition,” Fowles said. “If you have five candidates, and everybody gets to vote for just one, then it is very possible that no candidate will leave the election for the majority of votes cast.”
Save IRV Memphis is a campaign designed for non-bipartisan elections in Memphis to implement the instant runoff voting to ensure there is only one election instead of multiple elections.
“The problem in Memphis is that between the general and the runoff, there is an 80 percent drop in turnout,” Fowles said. “For every 100 people who voted in the general (election), only 20 will vote in the runoff. The people who tend not to return to the polls for the runoff tend to live in areas of low median household income.”