IRV much worse than old runoffs
June 10, 2009
A recent letter to the editor “IRV better than old runoffs” by Terrence Bouricius of Burlington, Vt., made several misstatements of fact.
Voters expect a voting method to be monotonically increasing, in that a vote for a candidate will always increase, rather than decrease, that candidate’s chance to win relative to other voters’ votes. All plurality elections, including primary, general, and top-top runoff elections are provably monotonically increasing, and a voter always knows that a vote for a candidate will help that candidate to win. On the other hand, in IRV/STV elections a voter never knows whether ranking a candidate first, last, or not at all will help that candidate to win or instead cause that candidate to lose, turning the act of voting into a gambling game.
Terrence claims that “Burlington, Vt., has used IRV with great success” yet a recent Burlington election eliminated the most popular moderate candidate and elected an extremist. The Burlington election also exhibited non-monotonicity because if some voters had decreased their vote for a candidate, then that candidate would have won the election instead of losing. IRV/STV favors extremists over moderates.
IRV is a fundamentally inequitable, costly, complex method for counting votes that causes many more problems than it solves. For instance, IRV does not solve the spoiler problem except in cases when the “spoiler” has virtually no chance to win, and does not find majority winners because many voters’ ballots are exhausted prior to the final counting round.
For more about the realities of instant runoff voting counting methods, see the IRV page on electionmathematics.org or for precise refutations of Terrence’s claims see rangevoting.org/burlington.html or rangevoting.org/monotone.html
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Top-two runoff elections are superior to the IRV method of counting votes in virtually every way. Also, many other alternative voting methods are available that are fair and simpler than IRV. Many of these fair, simpler alternatives also use rank choice ballots, and some use approval or ratings. IRV/STV does not treat all voters’ ballots equally, and this causes many problems, including non-monotonicity.
executive director, US Count Votes
Park City, Utah