Instant-Runoff Voting (Short Attention Span Version)

The current voting system in the US and Canada is “first-past-the-post”. You get a single non-transferable vote and the candidate that receives the most votes wins, even if they don’t have a majority. In this system in the USA, almost no one votes for a third party because doing so takes away your ability to exert a preference between the two major parties. And as almost no one votes for them, even if they prefer them, these smaller parties and independent candidates never get big enough to have a chance of winning. In Canada, because there are (for other reasons) three major parties, more than half of ridings (districts) are won by a candidate receiving less than 50% of the vote. The current Conservative government won 54% of seats with a mere 39.6% of the total vote.

A better system is instant-runoff voting (IRV, aka alternative vote). You rank the candidates on your ballot in order of your preference. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes transferred to those voters’ next choice. This is repeated until one candidate has a majority.

This eliminates strategic voting. You can vote for the candidate you really want and still express a preference between the other candidates if your candidate is eliminated. And IRV ensures that the candidate who wins is actually preferred by a majority of voters over the first-past-the-post winner (if they’re not the same).

IRV can and should be used for all single-winner elections. It’s already in place in Australia, Ireland, and a handful of U.S. cities.

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One thought on “Instant-Runoff Voting (Short Attention Span Version)

  1. Pingback: Unrepresentative Democracy, Part 2: Proportional Representation | sowmanyreasons

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