Instant runoff voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference (i.e. first, second, third, fourth and so on). Voters have the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, but can vote without fear that ranking less favoured candidates will harm the chances of their most preferred candidates. First choices are then tabulated. If more than two candidates receive votes, a series of runoffs are simulated, using voters' preferences as indicated on their ballot.
The candidate who receives the fewest first choice rankings is eliminated. All ballots are then re-tabulated, with each ballot counting as one vote for each voter's highest ranked candidate who has not been eliminated. Specifically, voters who chose the now-eliminated candidate will now have their ballots added to the totals of their second ranked candidate -- just as if they were voting in a traditional two-round runoff election -- but all other voters get to continue supporting their top candidate who remains in the race. The weakest candidates are successively eliminated and their voters' ballots are added to the totals of their next choices until two candidates remain. At this point, the candidate with a majority of votes is declared the winner. (Some jurisdictions choose to end the count as soon as one candidate has a majority of votes, as this cannot be defeated.)
Instant runoff voting allows for better voter choice and wider voter participation by accommodating multiple candidates in single seat races and alleviating the "spoiler effect," which can result in undemocratic outcomes. IRV allows all voters to vote for their favourite candidate, while avoiding the fear of helping elect their least favourite candidate. It ensures that winners enjoy majority support when matched against their top opponents.
NOTE THIS: IRV has the effect of avoiding split votes and the need for electors to vote "strategically" for candidates who are not their first choice. For example; suppose there are two similar party candidates A and B, and a third opposing candidate C, with raw popularity of 35%, 25% and 40% respectively. In a plurality voting system candidate C may win with 40% of the votes, even though most electors prefer A and B, over less popular candidate C. Alternatively, voters are pressured to choose the likely stronger candidate of either A or B, despite personal preference for the other, in order to help ensure defeat of C. It is often the resulting situation that candidate A or B would never get to ballot, whereas voters would be presented a two candidate choice. With IRV, the elector can allocate their preferences B, A, C and then A will win despite the split vote in first choices. [END]
Although used in most American elections, plurality voting does not meet these basic requirements for a fair election system. Compared to traditional runoff elections, IRV saves tax dollars, reduces money in politics and elects winners when turnout is highest.
Instant runoff voting is used to elect members of the Australian House of Representatives and most Australian State Governments, the president of India, members of legislative councils in India, the president of Ireland, and the parliament in Papua New Guinea. It is also used in Northern Ireland by-elections and for electing hereditary peers for the British House of Lords.
The system is also used in local elections around the world: to elect the mayor in cities such as London in the United Kingdom (in the variant known as supplementary vote) and Dunedin and Wellington in New Zealand. Variations of instant-runoff voting are employed by several jurisdictions in the United States, including San Francisco, San Leandro, and Oakland in California; Portland, Maine; Minneapolis and Saint Paul in Minnesota. The single transferable vote, a multi-seat form of IRV, is used in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
It is used to elect the leaders of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom and was used in elections in 2013 for the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and in Canada's New Democratic Party leadership election, 2012.
Many private associations also use IRV, including the Hugo Awards for science fiction and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in selection of the Oscar for best picture.
Phillip Edward Alexander
Social and Political Activist