insane election results? chalk it up to IRV

A great video about how instant runoff voting (IRV) works.
Be sure to watch through to the end so that you can see how it falls apart when a candidate convinces voters to vote in a manner that ought to improve that candidates results.


4 responses to “insane election results? chalk it up to IRV

  1. Interesting scenario, but it overlooks how the current multi-candidate, winner-takes-all system also thwarts the election of a candidate preferred by a majority of voters. And does so routinely.

    In the current Hawaii Democratic primary race, there are (so far) seven “credible candidates. Their political philosophies range from very liberal to fairly conservative, from “pro-development” to “pro-environment.” Their ethnicity includes two Filipinos, two haoles (Caucasians), two Japanese and one part-Hawaiian. All are male, except one woman.

    I am very close to two of them, semi-close to a third. I am familiar with the kinds of considerations they entertained in deciding whether to run. The more candidates in such a race, the easier it is for a prospective candidate to construct a convincing argument they can cobble together enough votes votes for a winning plurality.

    In case you think this is a fluke, in 2006, we had 11 candidates in the Democratic primary for the 2nd CD. By my criteria, at least 7 of those were “credible.” The winner received 20.8% of the vote!

    Perhaps I have not thought things through well-enough, but it is difficult for me to believe IRV, or a NON-instant “run-off” system would not have produced a more “democratic” result.

    Your video loses me when you say Sam was able to talk Manny’s supporters into casting their second vote for Manny. I don’t think that corresponds with rational expectations of voter behavior. More likely, Sam would be able to convince Manny’s supporters to pick Sam as their second choice. This requires Sam to adopt the tone suggested in your video: “Manny is a good man, but….” Because of the built-in imperative of a candidate to not alienate the supporters of his opponents, we might expect IRV to lead to a decline in the nastiness which is rewarded under the “first past the post” system.

  2. >Your video loses me when you say…
    It’s not ‘my’ video. It was posted on youtube by someone with the user name SJVoter. I happen to find it well produced (if a bit heavy handed) and decided to post about it. SJVoter has a few other interesting videos about IRV. Check them out too.

    >Perhaps I have not thought things through
    >well-enough, but it is difficult for me to believe
    >IRV, or a NON-instant “run-off” system would
    >not have produced a more “democratic” result.
    I agree that first-past-the-post is also a lousy system. There are better election systems out there then plurality and IRV though! I personally favor approval voting or very low granularity range voting.

    As for IRV vs. plurality w/ a runoff when a candidate did not get a majority in the first election: Neither is especially appealing. If the choice is solely between these options I prefer the actual runoff. Reasons:

    1. Voters get a chance to thoroughly evaluate the candidates in the runoff which could change the results. (lookup ‘Ed Jew’ in a SF election for an example where this likely would have occurred)

    2. The election integrity properties of IRV are very poor. To count the ballots requires central counting or central coordination which means that fraud can be centralized. There is no such thing as a precinct level count with IRV! (technically such counts exist but they explode exponentially as a function of the number of candidates) Election outcomes can change radically and suddenly due to changes in just a few votes.

  3. I’m totally with you on approval and range. IRV is a lot of complexity for a whole lot of nothing.

  4. The result in the hypothetical video is premised on two improbabilities. First, as pointed out by Barney, Sam is unlikely to convince Manny’s supporters to support him ahead of their prior first choice. More likely is that they’d place Sam ahead of Joel, but would still place Manny first. Second, Sam would be foolish to only approach voters favoring Manny. If he got just two of Joel’s supporters to place him first, he’d win outright. Finally, voters seldom vote in such a lockstep manner. A more likely result is that some who chose Manny as first would choose Sam second, and some would choose Joel, etc. Under this scenario, the third place candidate’s votes would be split between the other two, and the likely result will be to push the leading candidate over the top — that is, unless both Manny’s and Joel’s voters HATED Sam, in which case Sam would still lose, as he should.

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