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Instant runoff elections

Why don't we have instant runoff elections?
I am fielding this question to get some ideas. Is this just a pipe dream?
? 07.Jun.2003 16:26


what are they?

What instant runoff elections are 07.Jun.2003 16:58


An instant runoff election ranks candidates in order of preference instead of just picking one. When they count the votes they throw out the less popular candiates until they find a winner with a true majority. You can vote for who you really want and not have to worry.

For instance, I voted for Gore because he was not as bad as Bush. But I really wanted Nader. With an instant runoff election I could have ranked Nader 1, Gore 2 and so on.

Instand runoff elections allows people a wider choice. They are used in Europe where there are many parties. If they did not use instant runoff elections they would never elect anybody.

James 07.Jun.2003 18:13

Historical preference

We should have such a system.

The reason we don't, I suspect, is because the Founders were skeptical of allowing too direct of a democracy.

In electing the President, the original Electoral College was a compromise meant to please the smaller states and keep political parties entirely out of American politics.

Then the 12th Amendment gave us political parties, but still clung to the idea of the electoral college, to prevent too direct of a democracy. The States' have changed the manner by which they elect electors now, so that in most all states the electors must pledge to vote for a certain candidate. But the basic idea is still the same and doesn't lend itself to an instant runoff/preferential voting system.

While you're thinking about this, check out "Chaos, but in voting and apportionments?"


Good, but no panacea 08.Jun.2003 04:08

Mike stepbystepfarm@shaysnet.com

"Instant runoff elections" are one solution to the problem of "the lesser evil". But they are no panacea. Like ALL possible methods there are problems with "instant runoff". We should at least look at those....

It is one thing to cast secondary votes for what you consider a "lesser evil", quite another when the claim can be made that you CHOSE (voted for) what you consider an absolute evil. Remember, the method reuires you to in effect vote for ALL the candidates. IRV works well in a sitaution like.....
party A --- socialist
party B --- liberal
party C --- conservative
party D --- fascist
where A and D are small parties and the eventual victor must be for either B or C

It works much less well were the preference distribution....
party A --- communist, fair sized party, say 30%
party B --- democratic socialist, small party, say 15%
party C --- liberals, small party, small party, say 10%
party D --- libertarians, small party, say 15%
party E --- fascist, fair sized party, say 30%
Here you would expect the elimination order to be C, then either B or D, then the other, with the final decision made between the extremes A and E. In the absence of IRV, perhaps the "centrist" parties would have been induced to run a coalition candidate. With more parties, I could have demonstrated a preference distribution where the "center" was a majority but an extermist candidate would eventually win.

In other words, it all depends on the distirbution of preferences within the society. IRV looks good to us right now because we currently have a society with a "strong middle" and are usually forced between one or the other of lesser evil candidates in the middle. It would be less attractive were that not the case and our lesser evil choices led to the outsides. If you want to say that I am only getting problems when there are lots of parties keep in mind that IRV itself could indice that -- "first past the post" plurality elections tend to prevent parties splitting into numerous smaller entities over this or that secondary issue. EXPECT more parties with IRV.

This is NOT an argument against IRV because ALL possible schemes run into problems with some distribution of voter preeference. Look up "the Arrow Paradox".

except 12.Jun.2003 04:23


umm ...

right now we have a two-party, winner-take-all system ...

and the fascists ARE in power ...