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Forum Post: Instant Runoff Voting ~ Can and Should We Do it??

Posted 11 years ago on May 16, 2013, 12:39 a.m. EST by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR
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Instant Runoff Voting ~ Can and Should We Do it??


The Basics

Instant runoff voting (IRV) is a ranked choice voting system for single-winner elections that, in a single round of counting, accomplishes the goal of a two-round runoff election. Also called ranked choice voting, preferential voting, majority voting and the alternative vote, IRV avoids the undemocratic outcomes of plurality voting that occur when so-called "spoilers" split the majority vote. By allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference, IRV enables voters to vote their hopes instead of their fears, upholds the principle of majority rule and avoids the expenses and campaign spending associated with two rounds of voting.

Instant runoff voting is used to elect the national parliaments of Australia and Papua New Guinea, the president of Ireland and the leaders of governments in a growing number of cities, including London (United Kingdom), Wellington (New Zealand), Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota, San Francisco and Oakland in California, and Portland (ME). IRV is also used to select the Best Picture Oscar and for leaders of hundreds of major private associations and student governments.

Explore this website for more information on how IRV works and where it is used. For more information on the benefits of IRV, see Why Use IRV?

How Instant Runoff Voting Works

Instant runoff voting uses ranked choice ballots to simulate a traditional runoff in a single round of voting. Voters rank candidates in order of preference. They typically are given the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish. Indicating support for a lesser choice never counts your higher choices.

Every voter has one vote. That vote is counted initially for a voter's first choice. In the most common form of IRV, a candidate wins at this stage only if receiving a majority of votes after tallying first choices.

If no candidate receives a majority of first choices, the last-place candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. More than one candidate can be eliminated simultaneously if their combined vote is less than the total of any other remaining candidate.

Ballots counting for the eliminated candidate are now added to the totals of the candidate ranked next on each ballot.

This process of eliminating last-place candidates and adding ballots cast for those candidates to the totals of the next-ranked choice on that ballot continues until one candidate wins by securing a majority of the vote against remaining candidates.

Alternative approaches: Some jurisdictions limit potential winners to candidates who finish in the top two or top three in first choices. Some jurisdictions establish a limit on rankings. Some jurisdictions do not establish a winning threshold, meaning they always reduce the candidate field to two;. Some jurisdictions establish a winning threshold that is less than 50% of the vote (in which case they limit winners to those in the top two in first choices.)

This animation explains the IRV counting process:




Instant Runoff Voting

Upholding the principle of majority rule and accommodating genuine voter choice are marks of a well-functioning democracy. That's why we encourage understanding, adoption and effective implementation of instant runoff voting, a ranked choice voting system used in a growing number of American elections.




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[-] 1 points by BradB (2693) from Washington, DC 11 years ago

imo... IRV is ok.... but IRV alone is not really a good fix.... for it will still be a selection of the MSM controlled electable candidates ....

the real problem imo... is getting the honest candidates on the ballots.... and as is ... that takes money... and big money....

we need a powerful media venue that will promote the candidates we the people want.....

[-] 2 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

It's a chicken and egg dilemma. And we have people in our government who are just there to make sure government can't fix anything.

We need more sane congressmen (and women) to break the GOP filibusters and hostage crises to get laws passed that fixes a biased and corporatized news media so people have a clue about what's going on. And we need a reliable source of news so we can replace bad congresspersons. And so on and on for other "real problems."

In the meantime, IRV can get new blood in the system, and more than two party elections are much harder for RepubliCons to steal! Voter Turnout helps too. And realizing we are being suppressed by an untouchable 1%, who deliberately manipulate us to fight with each other and make sure we have all the weapons we need to do it, would go a looooong way to fixing things, as well!


Perhaps knowing that these Private Spy Contractors are working with Corporations to Sabotage Public Protest Organizations [ like Occupy Wall Street ] to defuse public descent will get some outraged people organized and motivated!

[-] -2 points by 99nproud (2697) 9 years ago

IRV's ok, Mandatory voting better.


"a better electoral reform, which would save taxpayer money, encourage third-party participation and has a demonstrated track-record of increasing voter turnout: instant runoff voting (IRV)."

But personally I think mandatory voting is critical if we are to create a better (direct) democracy.

Columbias doin it.


"Colombia may soon join the list of Latin-American countries with compulsory voting laws. On Thursday, September 25, a Senate committee approved the proposal as part of President Juan Manuel Santos’s package of reforms."

Many other reforms are needed as well.

[-] 3 points by turbocharger (1756) 9 years ago

IRV and forced voting wont do much if the people still dont decide to get involved and create their own homegrown candidates for said positions.

50% voting for corruption vs 100% voting for corruption really isnt going to do anything besides strengthen the corruption.

[-] -2 points by 99nproud (2697) 9 years ago

Agreed. Voting currently being such an ineffective act must be strengthened. We rarely get a turnout worthy to be called a quorum!!

Much electoral reform is needed for voting to finally matter.:

-1st priority money out of politics!!!!

-Eliminate electoral college.

-Shorter campaigns/campaign ad time

-fix gerrymandering

-Increase House of Rep side so urban areas are better represented

-forced debates.

-Universal National/state/local referendum use.

Not to mention better educated electorate.

etc etc

Years of hard work on the streets, courts, schools, voting booth, & media are required.

Oh & fight corruption as well of course.


You with us??

[-] 0 points by lester06 (28) 11 years ago

Where are the commenters?


[+] -4 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

The majority of commenters are only here to smear, they have no interest in real solutions like IRV!

It's up to us.

[-] 0 points by lester06 (28) 11 years ago

It's sad. The are interested in advancing their own agenda, but that's it. Occupy's interests and democracy's larger interests aren't what they are about.

[-] 0 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

They simply hate democracy and America.

[+] -4 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

All change faces resistance.

IRV seems like a great idea, but I thought the flat-tax push in the 80s sounded like a good idea until I found out it favored the rich and hurt everybody else.

I think I caught a piece of an argument against IRV by Thom Hartmann, did you catch it?

Here is a post by him on IRV:

Institute "instant runoff" voting, to make minority parties viable

Most democracies in the world today have healthy multiparty systems, but older ones (such as America and the UK) don't. The reason is simple: the idea of proportional representation hadn't been conceived when the older democracies were formed.

It wasn't until the 1840s that John Stuart Mill first wrote about it, which is why most democracies formed after 1850 have healthy multiparty systems that represent a broad range of political opinions. Older democracies are usually two-party states.

Knowing that there was a deficiency in the American system, James Madison wrote long letters and articles begging America's politicians not to form political parties, but it was all for naught. By the late 1790s, the Democratic Republicans had split off from the Federalists and we've had a two-party system in the United States ever since.

The problem is that we have winner-take-all elections. If more than two candidates run, it's possible for a candidate to take the seat with fewer than a majority of the votes--and, as Madison noted, then the people are represented by a candidate whose opinions reflect only a minority of Americans. (A good example was the presidential election of 2000, in which Bush got three million fewer votes than his opposition, Gore and Nader.)

(CONTINUED:) http://www.thomhartmann.com/blog/2004/01/what-would-jefferson-do-institute-instant-runoff-voting#comments

Instant Runoff Voting: Power to the Voters

AlterNet / By Steven Hill, Rob Richie | February 12, 2003 |

When the presidency can be won by 527 votes in a nation of 300 million, something needs to be changed. Around the country, people are working to fix a wounded electoral system.

Spurred by the memory of Ralph Nader spoiling Al Gore's election, by other third party threats to major party incumbents and by expensive runoff contests, instant runoff voting (IRV) has moved to the top of major parties' reform agenda in several states. At the same time, a growing number of social change activists are supporting IRV as a means to bring new ideas and energy into electoral politics resulting in its adoption in cities like San Francisco and on campuses like the Universities of Maryland and Illinois.

(CONTINUED:) http://www.alternet.org/story/15186/instant_runoff_voting%3A_power_to_the_voters

[+] -5 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

IRV can work, where is the third party support?????


They have no intention of becoming a real alternative party, they are just tools to weaken Dems.

People, do you realize the degree of which you are being PLAYED!!???????

[-] 1 points by lester06 (28) 11 years ago

You got it. The powers-that-be don't want IRV, because historically they've used third party spoiler strategies very successfully -- Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party to get Wilson & the Fed, Anderson to weaken Carter and get Reagan in, Nader to install Bush Jr., etc. It's a way around democracy and the popular will.

Why third party candidates (most of whom are honest sincere advocates as far as I can tell) don't push IRV I just don't understand. With IRV they'd actually have more of a chance and would certainly have more influence.

[+] -4 points by WSmith (2698) from Cornelius, OR 11 years ago

Keep on thinking! We need a few million more like you!

Scratch the surface on most of these gubmint, democracy or Obama haters and you will find something rotten, hypocritical or favoring the 1%.

Let's get the ball rolling on IRV elections, get third parties in the mix, and squeeze out the ability of the 1% to fix elections and install their GOP or DINO flunkies!