Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence is warning Memphis voters not to be tricked at the ballot box. Local voters passed laws 10 years ago that implement ranked choice voting (aka instant runoff voting), increase accountability, and enact term limits. Now, Lawrence says, city officials are trying to overturn all of it.
The Save IRV Memphis campaign is calling on voters to say no to all 3 charter questions on the November ballot. The questions are:
I. “Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide no person shall be eligible to hold or to be elected to the office of Mayor or Memphis City Council if any such person has served at any time more than three consecutive four-year terms, except that service by persons elected or appointed to fill unexpired four-year term shall not be counted as a full four-year term?"
2. “Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to repeal Instant Runoff Voting and to restore the election procedure existing prior to the 2008 amendment for all city offices, and expressly retaining the 1991 federal ruling for persons elected to the Memphis City Council single districts?”
3. "Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide that in any municipal election held as required by law, the candidate receiving the largest number of votes shall be declared the winner, thereby eliminating run-off elections?”
Memphis voters may not know that term limits already exist for mayor and city council members, as it is not mentioned in the question. Under the current charter, term limits are set at two 4-year terms (8 years total). The proposed charter reform would increase this limit to 3 terms (12 years total).
Voters may also have forgotten about instant runoff voting, because in the 10 years since the referendum passed, it hasn't yet been implemented. In fact, it was expected to be implemented by the 2019 city elections.
Then, there is the question over eliminating runoff elections. What happens if instant runoff voting is not repealed, but runoff elections are? Would that also overturn instant runoff voting, as a key mechanism to the reform are instant and automatic runoffs should no candidate win a majority outright? And eliminating runoff elections means the candidate who wins doesn't need majority support.
Save IRV Memphis filed an emergency petition to have the questions removed from the ballot, but the petition was denied by Chancery Court Chancellor Jim Kyle. Early voting has already begun in Memphis and thousands of votes have been mailed in.
Jennifer Lawrence is a on the board of RepresentUS, the largest anti-corruption organization in the country. Lawrence was also featured in an ad to protect ranked choice voting in Maine before the June primary election, and was featured in a recent ad in favor of anti-gerrymandering reform in Colorado.