Instant Runoff Voting

IRV on Saint Paul ballot November 3

Instant Runoff VotingThis Tuesday, November 3, Saint Paul voters will have a chance to enact Instant Runoff Voting for the next municipal election. From the St. Paul Better Ballot Campaign website:
Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is a ranked ballot method of voting that always results in winners chosen by a majority of the voters. On the ballot, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. Each voter has one vote which counts for the highest preferred candidate that can use it. Votes for defeated candidates are transferred to other candidates still in the race for each round of counting. It’s just like a series of runoff elections except that it is accomplished on one ballot – hence the term, “Instant Runoff Voting.”
Admittedly, this isn't the best explanation, but I'm lazy. For a visual demonstration, Minnesota Public Radio has a quick video of a hypothetical race between 4 colors.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune* has endorsed IRV. It seems like a no-brainer to me. The benefits:
  • Elimination of the primary
  • Ensures winners receive a majority of votes, no more plurality wins
  • Makes third party viable without becoming a spoiler
  • I hadn't thought of this, but it discourages negative campaigns to some extent because candidates might need second best votes
* Their website sucks. I stopped taking the Startrib over a year ago and rarely ever read the website. It's turned into a rag. Why did you sell McClatchy, why?

UPDATE: Instant Runoff Voting wins 52-48 in St. Paul. IRV worked just fine in Minneapolis, but the results being reported are from the unofficial optical scan of first place votes. Since there aren't machines to support IRV yet, the official results will be hand-counted. It will take more jurisdictions to approve IRV for a market for machines to be created.

On a related note, I heard someone from the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation on Future Tense this morning. They are developing publicly owned software to be used in digital voting machines that will make them transparent and accountable. The free market isn't exactly working for digital voting machines, as two companies have 88% of the market and new companies have an enormous barrier to entry imposed by the federal government.


Anonymous said...

Here's an open question to supporters of Instant Runoff Voting

I expect that the results of this poll will support my belief that score voting and approval voting are better than IRV, even if we use the LOGIC of the IRV supporters themselves. But I could be wrong. We'll see what the IRV proponents actually say.

Norwegian Shooter said...

Thanks for commenting. I looked at your poll and I would say none of the above. But I entered the middle choice to see the results. I'd bet that's the result you want, and have some argument that uses it to hang IRV, but I'd still like to hear it.

I worked for a market research firm for a couple of years. One thing I learned is the utter uselessness of using ranges to determine preferences. Rank two things on a scale of 1 to 9 and average the results. Say you get one choice at 5.6 and the other at 6.5. What does that mean? I have no idea.

If you want all candidates to have a score, then assign each candidate a unique rank and total the scores. Rank voting is better than score voting.

However, IRV is best. Practically, it's easier to limit voters to first, second and third. It also retains the familiar percentage result, while steering voter preferences to ensure a majority winner.