Instant runoff voting in New Jersey

In light of the potential close three-way split (and there are nine other candidates in the race, too), three major newspapers have printed opinion pieces in favor of instant runoff voting.  The Times of Trenton – in Trenton, New Jersey – printed a piece by George Amick:

The good news is that there’s a simple way to fix the election system that would allow independents and third-party candidates to exercise their right as Americans to run for office, and allow their supporters to exercise their right to vote for them, without fear that they would help elect another candidate whom they might detest.

It’s called instant runoff voting (IRV). IRV would preserve the time-honored principle that the majority rules. And it wouldn’t require the expense and hassle of an actual runoff election, such as Trenton holds when no candidate for mayor or for a city council seat receives a majority. On such occasions, voter interest and participation almost always fall sharply in the second round of balloting.

The bad news is that, although many foreign countries and a handful of American communities use IRV, it has stirred little interest in New Jersey outside of a few lonely advocates such as state Sen. Bill Baroni, R-Hamilton (who was pushing the solution long before he became one of Chris Christie’s campaign advisers). It also was backed by former Sen. Bill Schluter, R-Pennington, during his own independent candidacy for governor in 2001.

John B. Anderson, the 1980 independent presidential candidate and FairVote board member, got a piece published in two out-of-state publications, the Baltimore Sun and the Orlando Sentinel:

Voters of course are plurality voting’s real victim. It forces too many of us to settle for a lesser choice when fearing the majority will split its vote. But without independent voices, American elections often revert to tired slogans and negative attacks rather than debates about innovative ideas that the major parties won’t touch. With so much dissatisfaction with the major parties, it is more important than ever that independent voices be welcomed rather than demonized.

With IRV in place in New Jersey, voters would be able to rank their preferences first, second and third. Daggett supporters, for example, could rank him first, and then indicate their back-up runoff choices in case he lost by finishing last. Through the automatic runoff mechanism of IRV, a candidate with true majority support in the final choice between the top two candidates would win. There would be no spoilers and no one would have to compromise their vote.

There’s nothing complicated about IRV: If you and your friends have ever reached a consensus about where to go for dinner, you already understand the dynamic behind IRV sometimes you settle for a second choice. And as for the logistics, a one-time upgrade of voting equipment and good, straightforward ballot instructions for voters do the trick.

IRV keeps growing in popularity. Backed by such leaders as President Obama and Sen. John McCain, IRV will be used for coming elections in San Francisco, Oakland and Memphis. The British prime minister has pledged to hold a national referendum to adopt IRV in the United Kingdom. Even the Oscar for Best Picture this winter will go to a film selected by IRV.

36 thoughts on “Instant runoff voting in New Jersey

  1. Ross Levin Post author

    I’ve thought that since reading “Gaming the Vote” by William Poundstone. I’d like to see range voting put in place in the real world, though, like IRV has been.

  2. Morgan Brykein

    Range voting is an entirely different system of voting, a thing apart from one man, one vote. Thus it gets very little mainstream attention.

    In a range vote, the person who gets the most votes is not always the one who wins. It might be the person a majority of voters consider “second best.”

    You can watch a good video on it here.

  3. Morgan Brykein

    For an example, imagine you have a group of say, thirty people, deciding what they want for lunch. The options are Chinese food, Mexican food, or Subway. Sixteen people in the group like Chinese and hate Mexican (food), while the other fourteen love Mexican and hate Chinese (food). Everyone in the group loves Subway, but it’s not their first choice.

    In a normal vote, Chinese would win and the people who hate it would be unhappy. For the group, the day is ruined by the whiny people who don’t like Chinese. In a range vote, Subway will win because while sixteen give Chinese a nine and Mexican a zero, and fourteen give Mexican a nine and Chinese a zero, all of them gave Subway something like a seven.

    In a range vote election, the candidate who wins will either be a candidate a strong majority likes, or a kind of “compromise” candidate that will make everyone happy.

  4. Melty

    The above is choc-full of misleading statements and false claims. Here are a few:
    “without fear that they would help elect another candidate whom they might detest” – False.
    IRV is especially susceptible to perverse outcomes.
    “there would be no spoilers” – False.
    IRV has spoiler effect (roughly saying the same thing as the first example in fewer words)
    “a candidate with true majority support in the final choice between the top-two candidates in a runoff would win” – False.
    IRV does not yield the same results as a plurality vote followed by a top-two runoff.
    “IRV would preserve the time-honored principle that the majority rules” – False.
    IRV often fails to deliver a majority(that’s not necessarily anything bad, but it is a false claim to say that it only yields majority outcomes)
    “it wouldn’t require the expense and hassle of an actual runoff election” – Misleading.
    IRV is expensive and a hassle. An actual runoff election may turn out to be cheaper, less hassle, and even quicker.
    “There’s nothing complicated about IRV” – False. Counting votes through “the automatic runoff mechanism of IRV” is a complicated, elaborate process, and you can’t even subtotal your districts.

    It’s good to inform people about alternative voting methods. It’s bad to lie about them.

  5. Joyce McCloy

    Instant Runoff Voting does not work as advertised, and has unintended consequences . IRV does not save money, does not reduce negative campaigning, does not simplify elections, does not increase turnout and does not provide a majority outcome in most elections. In fact, IRV usually provides a plurality result. There are other ways to improve elections or help third parties without the drawbacks of IRV.

    What are the problems with Instant Runoff Voting? IRV is not “as easy as 1-2-3” and hurts third parties by entrenching the two-party political system wherever it has been tried. See how Instant runoff voting has impacted San Francisco, the largest jurisdiction in the US to use it. Implementation of IRV corresponded with a drastic drop in voter turnout in San Francisco’s mayoral contests; IRV consistantly suffers from majority failure and several states’ fiscal analysis show that IRV creates new and high costs in elections.

    IRV violates core principles of election integrity, whether using optical scan voting systems or Direct Record/Touchscreen machines. IRV increases reliance on more complex technology, making audits and recounts more prohibitive, further eroding election transparency. Because IRV is not additive, no matter what voting system is used, the ballots, (electronic or optical scan) have to be hauled away from where they are cast to a central location to be counted. This increases the chance of fraud or lost votes. The tallying software utilizes a complex algorithm that makes the process even more opaque.

  6. Melty

    Morgan. I too am pro-Range, but I think it’s good to be open to other methods and hybrids of them, and act in favor of any alternative method that’s an improvement on what we have. It’s well-seen that methods that both eliminate and reallocate (like “instant runoff”) are a step back. But suppose somebody proposes, say, a ranking method that neither eliminates nor reallocates. It could be alright. What method is best also depends on what you’re voting on – single seat, multiple seats, intraparty propositions . . . – I doubt that any one method is best for all purposes.

    A good strategy for Range proponents might be to try to get Approval implemented (or call it “Binary Range” if you want to think of it that way) as a transition towards Range.

  7. Rob Richie

    These posts reflect a general desire to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Range/approval folks have done nothing to demonstrate the viability of their proposed reforms. They have a hard job, as they have to convince policymakers to reject traditional notions of majority rule (e.g., accept that a candidate with 45% support in a two-person race could defeat the candidate with 55%) and common-sense understanding of how to run campaigns (having to accept that support for a lesser choice counts directly against your top choice is not easy).

    I’m not saying they can’t do it, but they haven’t yet. To be sure, it’s a lot easier to gripe about other reforms that are more successful. Rather than try make their case against the status quo, as IRV backers have done, they spend their time carping about IRV. Thus, they defend the status quo which quite straightforwardly is worse for multi-party democracy than IRV, as explained well in the John Anderson commentary.

    Joyce McCloy is a spewer of FUD — “fear, uncertainty, doubt.” She will ignore nine facts rebutting her thesis and use the one that upholds it — classic techniques for defending the status quo.

  8. Ross Levin Post author

    Rob, I agree mostly, and personally I hate the divisions within the voting reform movement. Since it’s so small, we should be respecting each other and working together – and range voting folks should really be working to get it implemented like IRV has been implemented.

  9. Melty

    Rob Richie, the Dark One, does not defend any of the false claims that I’ve revealed, nor does he confront Joyce, because he is a liar, and he knows better than to draw attention to that fact. Instead he relies on arguments of relative popularity.

    Rob. As bad as Plurality Voting is, it’s better than IRV. IRV is worse for multi-party democracy. The worst.

  10. Melty

    Now that the Dark One has entered, let me say this. I’ve never intended to hide my identity behind my cyberpseudonym, Melty Rox. It’s only for brevity and jocularity.

    Rob Richie is a professional liar.

    Devin Ray Freeman

  11. Dale Sheldon

    IRV would be a terrible choice for Daggett.

    Corzine and Christie are both despised by large fractions of the electorate. Daggett, meanwhile, doesn’t have many rabid supporters, but is the *only* one of the group with a net-positive favorability rating!

    (I’m looking at the FPU Public Mind poll from yesterday for these numbers: courtesy of Political Wire.)

    Despite these facts, there is no way that IRV would elect Daggett, because he isn’t the first-choice of enough voters, even though he’s everybody’s second choice. He would, with out a doubt, be the first of these three to be eliminated from the race. I repeat: Daggett would have zero chance of winning if this election were held under IRV.

    Daggett would have a reasonable chance of winning under any Condorcet method, but his *best* chance (and the only chance Gary Steele–who no one is even talking about–has) is under score voting.

    I Interpreted the FPU-PM poll’s favorability scores with the following rubric: “very unfavorable” = 0, “somewhat unfavorable” = 1, “no opinion” = 2, “somewhat favorable” = 3, “very favorable” = 4, and “haven’t heard of” = X (see to see how X votes effect (or rather, how they don’t effect) scores). That gives the following results for a score voting election with this data:

    Corzine: 1.6
    Christie: 1.9
    Daggett: 2.0
    Stelle: 1.9

    In summary: IRV would elect either Corzine or Christie; Daggett would certainly be the first eliminated.

    But score voting would elect Daggett *now* if it were in use.

    If you want third party candidates to win *now*, you should move to enact score voting *now*.

    I’ve got more details in my latest blog post:

  12. Dave Schwab

    The point is not ‘which voting system would be best for Daggett?’ The point is which system would be best for voters, allowing them to vote for their favorite candidate without worrying that they’ll help elect their least favorite candidate. The answer is IRV, and I’m glad that the idea is catching on.

  13. Dale Sheldon

    “The point is which system would be best for voters, allowing them to vote for their favorite candidate without worrying that they’ll help elect their least favorite candidate.”

    I’m afraid you are misinformed.

    IRV does *not* guarantee that you can vote for your favorite candidate without worrying that you’ll elect your least favorite.

    I can provide examples in video:

    And examples using real-life data:

    And examples in the simplest of terms:

    I know that that statement is something that organizations advocating IRV like to promote; but it is unfortunately a lie.

    But you are correct that I mis-framed the objective: the point is, as you say, “what is best for the voters.” But my answer still stands; score voting is best for the voters, IRV is not.

    If you truly want what’s best for the voters, *please* educate yourself on these examples. IRV is full of damaging pitfalls, and the repetition of incorrect information, as in your post, is damaging to the goal of reforming voting.

  14. Melty

    Dave. Which system would be best for voters, allowing them to vote for their favorite candidate without worrying that they’ll help elect their least favorite candidate? The answer is NOT IRV.
    This breaks down into two criteria. For one, there’s the “independence of irrelevant alternatives”, called “spoiler effect” in layman’s talk. IRV fails this criterion. The voter’s are still stuck with spoilers under “instant runoff.” The other is “nonmonotonicity.” That is to say that if I up the rank on a candidate it should at least not hurt that candidate’s chances of winning, and if sink a candidate farther down in my rankings it at least should not help that candidate. IRV fails this criterion too. That’s right. Your rankings under IRV are illusory.
    For these and other reasons (see Joyce McCloy @6, she’s the only authoritative voice on this thread), IRV is one of the few alternative voting methods that is actually worse than ordinary choose-one voting.
    IRV is worst for voters.

  15. Clay Shentrup

    I find Rob Richie’s rhetoric to be cynical and deceptive.

    > Range/approval folks have done nothing to demonstrate the viability of their proposed reforms.

    On the contrary, we’ve shown (via extensive computer simulation) that they produce radically more representative outcomes, in terms of average voter satisfaction as measured via an objective metric called “Bayesian regret”. We’ve shown that score/approval voting don’t discard the enormous amount of ballot information that IRV does (since it only counts one layer of rankings per round, and often discards candidates before it even gets to the layers where they are supported). We’ve shown that score/approval are more resistant to tactical voting, since they make it safe for voters to support candidates they like MORE than their (tactically supported) favorite front-runners — that is, score and approval pass the Favorite Betrayal Criterion. Whereas in IRV, voters can often get a better result for top-ranking a candidate who is not really their favorite. This means that IRV continues the self-fulfilling “not-electable” prophecy (if voters don’t think you can win with IRV, and vote strategically, then you really can’t win, unlike with score/approval).

    And we’ve shown that score/approval can be done on ordinary “dumb/totaling” voting machines, unlike IRV (thus cheaper to implement). And we’ve shown that they can be sub-totaled in precincts, unlike IRV – thus are more resistant to central fraud. And voters tend to make fewer ballot-spoiling errors with score/approval, whereas ranked methods tend to produce MORE. So in terms of practical/financial considerations, the story is the same.

    There is VASTLY more research and real-world data supporting score voting today than there ever was supporting IRV when it was first brought into political use DECADES ago. And most of the ground-breaking mathematical insights into election science (e.g. Arrow’s Theorem and the Gibbard-Satterthwaite Theorem) have come about long since the initial adoption of IRV. IRV is, in terms of the cutting edge of election science, an anachronism. A dinosaur.

    Now, the one place where we haven’t proven the viability of score/approval voting is in the political realm. But that’s pretty difficult when people such as yourself spread misinformation. And you definitely do. For instance, there’s your rather baffling argument that score/approval voting would “degrade” to ordinary plurality voting in practice, since voters know that a vote for a non-favorite candidate can hurt their favorite. That’s like arguing that plurality voting is free from tactical behavior, since e.g. Nader supporters would never want to vote for Gore (since that might cause Gore to defeat Nader, according to your logic). I explore this bizarre argument of yours here:

    Then there’s your defense of IRV’s failure of monotonicity. You always claim something to the effect of “IRV was not harmed by being non-monotonic in this election, because there’s no way voters could have strategically exploited the fact that the election wasn’t monotonic.” This is doubly mind-blowing, since

    A) There’s no way you could KNOW whether at least SOME voters were savvy enough to look at pre-election polls and vote tactically.

    B) More importantly, this is not even the PROBLEM with non-monotonicity. The problem is that cases of non-monotonicity amount to a self-contradiction by IRV, mathematically _proving_ that the wrong candidate was elected in at least one of the two mirror image scenarios.

    I have explained this to you numerous times, but you always pretend not to understand/know it for each new audience you deal with. This is why people who are educated about the nuances of election mathematics and game theory show up to counteract you. Many of them see you as a serious threat to election reform, in the long term. You are thinking tactically, not strategically. And you have a mindset that the ends justify the means, so it’s fine to mislead people if that’s what it takes. If I could save the world from disaster by misleading some people, perhaps I would. Maybe in some sense it is justifiable. But frankly, I’m mostly against this because I don’t think it’s EFFECTIVE. You may mislead people into enacting IRV in some city. But when its problems reveal themselves, and a city reverts to ordinary plurality voting, you’ve harmed election reform overall. Now it will be harder for people who actually know what they’re doing to come in later and enact score or approval voting. You will have soured people’s appetites for reform, and given lots of ammunition to the people who just want the status quo of plurality voting.

    We can’t afford that.

    > They have a hard job, as they have to convince policymakers to reject traditional notions of majority rule (e.g., accept that a candidate with 45% support in a two-person race could defeat the candidate with 55%)

    Rob, please. IRV can elect a candidate who is the first-place choice of only two voters, and who is beaten by a majority but all but one of his opponents.

    In Burlington, Vermont, the Democrat was preferred to both the Progressive and the Republican by a majority. And both margins of victory were larger than the one by which the Progressive beat the Republican in the final round. IRV did not elect the true majority winner, despite claims that it does.

    IRV can give a group of voters a better result if they stay home than if they show up and vote sincerely (unlike score/approval voting). This is called the No-show Paradox.

    IRV can give voters a better result if they top-rank their second-favorite candidate than if they top-rank their sincere favorite candidate (unlike score/approval voting). This is the Favorite Betrayal Criterion, which IRV fails.

    Then there’s the failure of independence of irrelevant alternatives, as well as other pretty severe violations of common sense expectations.

    If you can convince policy makers to accept IRV in spite of all these flaws, I think we have a chance of implementing score or approval voting. At least, once the reform movement gets a better understanding of the numerous failings of IRV. Which, as you can see, is happening slowly but surely.

    > and common-sense understanding of how to run campaigns (having to accept that support for a lesser choice counts directly against your top choice is not easy).

    I don’t know where you get that idea. Nader supporters in the 2000 US Presidential election knew that voting for Gore would help Gore defeat Nader. Yet polling data showed that around 90% of Nader supporters voted for someone other than Nader. I think it’s harder for voters to accept that supporting their sincere favorite candidate can hurt them, or that showing up and voting instead of staying at home can hurt them. Or that INCREASING support for a candidate can switch that candidate from winner to loser.

    You cherry pick the few things about IRV that are good (or at least can be spun to seem good, even if they are not), and ignore IRV’s failings (or just defend straw men of those failings). Or you pretend that some feature of a competing voting method is bad, even if it really isn’t. (Like when you say that score voting “fails” the Later-No-Harm Criterion, which in a straightforward mathematical sense is obviously a strength, not a weakness.)

    > I’m not saying they can’t do it, but they haven’t yet.

    That’s largely because the reform resources out there have been misdirected at IRV, due to factors like:

    1) The fact that, prior to Warren Smith’s 2000 Bayesian regret calculations, there was no decisive case for the clear superiority of any single voting method over all others.

    2) FairVote (previously Citizens for Proportional Representation, and then the Center for Voting and Democracy) “got there first” and saturated the market with IRV.

    3) FairVote continues to flood the grass roots and the “blogosphere” with false (but catchy) memes like “IRV eliminates spoilers”, and “IRV ensures majority winners”, etc. Or you claim incorrectly that IRV “saves money”, when what actually saves money is eliminating runoff elections, REGARDLESS of whether IRV or plurality or some other method is used.

    > To be sure, it’s a lot easier to gripe about other reforms that are more successful.

    This is an example of the kind of rhetoric from you that inspires people like Joyce and me to come here and spend time rebutting you. Most of us are simply trying to educate people, and to point out that many of the pro-IRV claims from FairVote (and specifically, Rob Richie) are false, or at best highly misleading. We are trying to help improve the welfare of our fellow citizens, and you dismissively simplify it as “griping”.

    > Rather than try make their case against the status quo, as IRV backers have done, they spend their time carping about IRV. Thus, they defend the status quo which quite straightforwardly is worse for multi-party democracy than IRV, as explained well in the John Anderson commentary.

    Again, your rhetoric is misleading. You oversimplify the issue. The bottom line is, there are only so many people out there who even CARE about voting reform, or know that it’s an important issue (I’d argue that it’s THE most important issue, since it’s about the very path citizens take to changing government policy on ANY issue, like global warming). Given the severity of problems like global warming, pollution, and species collapse, we need a voting method that *greatly* improves the representativeness of government. But the evidence overwhelmingly says that IRV offers, at best, a very small improvement over plurality. Whereas score and approval voting simply change the game, and even make money (and all things that signify “electability”) *intrinsically* less important.

    You could argue that IRV is more politically viable, but that’s irrelevant if it doesn’t offer ENOUGH of an improvement. And I don’t think it does. Furthermore, most of your talking points about the relative merits of score voting and IRV are invalid and/or make unrealistic assumptions of voter behavior.

    Getting back to the limited nature of reform manpower, in order to get reformers make the RIGHT decision about where to invest their reform effort, we have to try to disseminate the most accurate information about voting methods. That’s what we’re trying to do. You may call it griping or fighting for the status quo, but we think we’re doing immense good. And a lot of us think you are reckless and “anti-science”.

    Say that IRV is repealed in one or more of the areas in the nation where it has been adopted, due to bizarre paradoxes like the ones that happened in the last Burlington election, discussed here:

    Then, you will have ended up HELPING the status quo, in the long run. You have to think beyond your nose about long-term strategy and the ramifications of which voting method you decide to push. Pushing for IRV because it seems to be the “quick and dirty” path forward is ill-advised. Especially if you think that proportional representation is some kind of holy grail to which IRV will serve as a stepping stone. Single-winner executive seats control a LOT of political power, and so you’d best look for a combination of multi-winner and single-winner voting method that is better than STV/IRV. Since there is a proportional form or score voting (actually a few), the score voting route is much more sensible and practical.

  16. Clay Shentrup

    Dave Schwab,

    Dale understands that the point is “what’s best for voters”, not “what’s best for Daggett”. His point is that Daggett APPEARS to be the best choice for voters, but that IRV probably would not elect him.

    Your argument that a voting method should allow voters “to vote for their favorite candidate without worrying that they’ll help elect their least favorite candidate” is actually an argument IN FAVOR of score voting instead of IRV, since score voting passes the Favorite Betrayal Criterion, which IRV *fails*.

    Case in point, the last mayoral election in Burlington, Vermont.

    There, a group of voters who preferred the Republican over the Democrat over the Progressive could have elected the Democrat instead of the Progressive (an improvement for them) by insincerely top-ranking the Democrat, even though the Republican was their sincere favorite. Rob Richie tries to dismiss this, implying that voters would never be so savvy and/or knowledgeable as to do this. But it only takes a few election cycles for voters to see that Republicans tend to lose in Burlington, regardless of whether they face off against a Progressive or a Democrat in the final round. Once they realize that, it never makes strategic sense for them to top-rank a Republican. They fear doing that the same way voters feared voting for Nader in the 2000 Presidential election.

    With score voting, this is not a problem. Once a voter has given a maximum score to his favorite front-runner, he can keep going, giving a maximum score to every candidate he likes BETTER than his favorite front-runner. This means a voter doesn’t have to care about “electability”, so money intrinsically matters less than under a system like IRV or plurality.

    Because of this and other properties, score voting and approval voting far exceed IRV in their ability to represent the will of the voters. This has been objectively measured via Bayesian regret, through extensive computer simulation from a Princeton math Ph.D. named Warren Smith, whose work is discussed in the William Poundstone book, Gaming the Vote.

  17. Melty

    up to three amply knowledgable in vote-ology on here – Joyce McCloy, Dale Sheldon and Clay Shentrup

    Those who detest the ruling parties naturally oppose IRV once they understand it. What with John McCain and Howard Dean saying they’re for IRV, it should tell you something. They know IRV is well-designed to preserve status quo. Plus it incentivizes electronic voting. It’s got more of what it takes to keep the the old two-party paradigm going to yon time than even regular voting does.

    Only alternative voting methods that are better than choose-one voting (which is most of them) help budding parties to grow. If the voting reform movement is Troy, IRV is the Trojan Horse. Just don’t bring it in.

  18. L. G. Stern

    I accept that FairVote, Rob Richie et al. are well-intentioned.

    I accept that the status quo is disagreeable to many and subverts the best interests of the population by dividing the opposition, leading to a two-party duopoly.

    However, FairVote persists in presenting IRV as the _only_ alternative to single-vote plurality. It is unfair to voters to conflate the relatively simplicity of a ranked choice ballot with the nightmarish complexity of IRV tabulation, and ignoring serious questions regarding stability and scalability.

    Not to mention, the type of candidate who will win in IRV tends *not* to be the centrist candidate, but the candidate who best represents the majority faction.

    This arises because IRV is the single-candidate limit of Single Transferable Vote, a method for implementing Proportional Representation. PR is an excellent goal for legislatures, where we really ought to have multi-winner elections to get more independent voices into debates.

    For single-winner elections, however, our goal should be a centrist aggregation method that encourages independent choice. This will elect leaders who will be able to apply selective force to laws in a way that best approximates the overall wish of the population. If you have to game your ranking depending on what you think others will be doing, the result will be skewed and you will produce results that demonstrate the foolishness of crowds instead of their wisdom.

    I think Single Transferable Vote and Score or Approval Voting can coexist. But I don’t think that a multi-winner election method should be used in a single-winner election, or visa-versa. They have different goals and should be used in situations where they do best. Since STV is not very scalable to larger populations, it should be reserved for multi-winner legislative or city council districts, but nothing larger.

  19. Dave Schwab

    As I understand it, FairVote promotes PR as well as IRV.

    “Not to mention, the type of candidate who will win in IRV tends *not* to be the centrist candidate, but the candidate who best represents the majority faction.”

    That’s right. IRV advocates are not trying to change the generally accepted principle of majority rule for single-winner elections. IRV wouldn’t skew the results towards any outcome, although it would open up the field for more than two viable candidates.

  20. Ross Levin Post author

    Why is centrism desirable? Shouldn’t we be trying to reflect the peoples’ wishes as accurately as possible, rather than trying to impose centrism on them through a voting system?

    Also, it is possible to game a range voting system – just vote for your favorite front runner as high as possible, then vote for everyone else very low.

  21. Michael Cavlan

    Well Folks

    Minneapolis is doing RCV Ranked Choice Voting, right now as we speak.

    RCV is very similar to IRV. So let’s just wait and see what happens. I am on the ballot in Ward 8, along with 4 other candidates.

    I can tell you what has happened so far. The vast majority of the incumbents have flat out refused to debate the challengers. Ironically, we call ourselves the pro-democracy “insurgent” campaigns.

    You would swear there was no elections going on. The establishment politicians are probably hoping that the electorate are asleep. The media here is helping by doing virtually no reporting on the races.

    We can only hope that the electorate are angry enough to go to the polls and vote a pox on all their houses.

    That would backfire 180 degrees on the establishments desire to keep everyone asleep.

    Well, gotta go and vote.

    Easy as 1-2-3

  22. Brock

    We don’t have to “wait and see” how IRV or Ranked Choice Voting works out. There are US jurisdictions and countries around the world that already use it, like Burlington VT, Ireland and Malta; and IRV leads to two-party rule, just like plurality (our current system). We can learn from their experience.

    Only Ranged Voting (or Score Voting, as it’s sometimes called) allows for competitive bids from third parties. Only Range Voting would actually give Daggett a real chance at winning.

  23. Melty

    Range is great, but it’s not the only one that “allows for competitive bids from third parties”. There are other good voting methods too.

    Of the few countries that use IRV, Australia’s the biggest and longest running example of it. They call it “preferential voting” there, been using it for decades, and they’ve got the classic two parties barely distinguishable bickering endlessly over trivialities with impunity.

    Ranked Choice Voting is just the latest new word in the States for Instant Runoff Voting. They are one and the same. The IRV proponents recently took to calling it RCV, perhaps due to the fact it can take many days to get the results from “instant runoff”.

    There are slightly different variants of IRV going, though. They vary from poor to very poor.

  24. Melty

    Both Instant Runoff and the current choose-one style voting fail to reflect the will of the people. IRV is the worse of the two, because its complex elimination/reallocation algorithm is non-additive, illusory in its rankings, and fraud-prone.

  25. Melty

    Ross. Of course, no matter the method of voting, there’s always the option to vote insincerely.

    I agree with you that there’s no way to know full-well how a given voting method is until it’s been played out for quite some rounds worth of real-life politics.

  26. Clay Shentrup

    Dave Schwab,

    You said..
    >As I understand it, FairVote promotes PR as well as IRV.

    Yes. They began as “Citizens for Proportional Representation”, and I believe their long-term goal is to get PR in multi-winner positions. But because (non-proportional) IRV is the single-winner form of (proportional) STV, they see IRV as a useful “stepping stone” to STV. And as such, they have used a lot of misleading and severely flawed rhetoric to sell voters on IRV. Regardless of whether STV is a good-enough proportional method (proportional score voting and asset voting are better), IRV is *not* good enough for single-winner districts. I have already listed a litany of problems that it has, that score voting and approval voting do not have.

    > IRV wouldn’t skew the results towards any outcome, although it would open up the field for more than two viable candidates.

    Both of these claims are false. IRV has specific mathematical properties that cause it to elect “extremists”. You can see that visually demonstrated here via Voronoi diagrams.

    And IRV does NOT “open up the field” to more than two candidates. With IRV, the best strategy is to top-rank one’s favorite front-runner (and as we’ve seen in Australia, many voters will strategically exaggerate like that even if they don’t understand the mathematics of it or whether it’s actually helpful). You are falling here to the “two-and-a-half candidate” fallacy here. IRV *does* mitigate voters’ fear of voting for a *weak* “half candidate” like Ralph Nader in the 2000 election. But if that third party actually grows, voters eventually will have an incentive to top-rank their favorite front-runner, regardless of who their real favorite is.

    This happened in Burlington, where politics are so shifted to the left, that the Republican effectively acted as the “third party”, and the Democrat and the Progressive mayoral candidate BOTH would have beaten him. A group of voters who preferred GOP>Democrat>Progressive could have gotten an improvement from Progressive to Democrat if they had insincerely top-ranked the Democrat.

    And if logic doesn’t work for you, try facts. Australia’s House of Representatives has used IRV since around 1918, as I recall, and it has been consistently two-party dominated, save for a rare exception. Our Congress is around 0.19% non-major-party whereas Australia’s House is around 0.08% non-major-party. Negligible difference.

    As I have already explained here at length, score/approval voting FIX this problem, because once a voter top-ranks his favorite of the front-runners, he has no reason to fear ADDITIONAL votes for candidates he likes better than that front-runner. So those Republicans in Burlington could have given the Democrat a 10 and the Progressive a 0 if they knew that the Democrat and Progressive would be the top-two candidates, to try to make sure not to get the “lesser evil”. But then they still would have been free to safely give the Republican a 10. But NOT with IRV.

  27. Clay Shentrup


    “Centrism” is, by definition, having the least total distance in “issue space” between the candidate and the voters. So it is, by definition, the most representative. Maybe you’re thinking that in a “liberal” area a “centrist” wouldn’t represent the people. But here we mean “centrist” as in, “relative to THAT electorate”.

  28. Clay Shentrup

    Dave Schwab,

    Here I try to fit my explanation of how IRV does not really help third party candidates into 10 minutes of Youtube goodness. I’m probably not very good at this, but it’s my first try.

  29. Ross Levin Post author

    A better term would probably be something like “representative of the peoples’ desires.” Something like that would communicate that centrism doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a political moderate, it just means that you’re close to as many peoples’ political opinions in a given jurisdiction as possible.

    I have another concern. I read on your website that it would have been possible for Daggett to have won the election in NJ while he was polling around ten percent. I have a problem with that. If only ten percent of the electorate has this candidate as their first choice, why should he win?

  30. Melty

    One response to the example you give, Ross, is the very large pizza analogy. Everybody wants a different combination of toppings. The group orders a pizza that’s the very favorite of just one, or maybe not even one, of the people at the table, yet maybe everybody’s happy.
    Some are critical of range and approval for this very sort of comprimise selection. As you say, it would be interesting to see how these things play out in real elections.

  31. Sean Walker

    Ross, about Daggett, check the polls again. Those that had him polling at 10% were based on who voters expected to vote on. This is a Plurality poll. When you look at favorability, and use it as a Score (Range) poll, then it becomes clear that Daggett, absent of the distortions of Plurality, would likely win. Just because few said they would vote for him, it does not mean that they did not like him first. They were admitting their own strategic voting ahead of time.

  32. Ross Levin Post author

    But in a lot of those favorability polls most of the voters hadn’t even heard of him. That’s what I’m saying – if most of the electorate doesn’t prefer him because they haven’t heard of him, but those that do prefer him prefer him strongly, he shouldn’t really win. A majority of the electorate still hasn’t heard of him. And I’m pretty sure that was the scenario at the range voting website.

  33. Melty

    Some say the fifty-percent line should be of no more significance than any other percent line. I suppose there are two, or more, ways of looking at it.

    You got me thinking, Ross, about how both ranking and rating methods give you the opportunity to rank or rate somebody you’ve never heard of over someone you detest. I wonder if there’s any empirical data that show such a voter tendency. I think it’s good to always include the option to abstain from voting on a particular candidate in these vote-for-more-than-just-one-if-you-want methods, as well as the none-of-the-above, and all that should get counted.

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