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8 Ranked Choice Voting (Instant Runoff)
Multi-Party civility:--A one-party state tends toward oppression and a two-party state
tends toward gridlock. These weaknesses detailed in the prior post can be
addressed by adding parties so that achieving majority requires forming coalitions
based on civility. People behave better when they hope that the opponent on
the current issue will be an ally on the next issue.
Multi-Party balancing:--Furthermore, multi-party democracy
allows even a small party to influence larger parties away from excesses.
Gridlock between nearly equal political forces can be tipped one way or another
by a less powerful party that shifts the balance. Finesse and agility lead to
Third-Party unpopularity:--Despite these multi-party
advantages, there is simplistic appeal in having only two options, leaving
supporters of less popular positions deprived of real choice. Minority voters
who do choose other options are condemned by the larger parties for
throwing their votes away. The argument is "you could have put us over the
Fortunately, this deterrent to discourse can easily be
Viable alternative:--There are systems with names
like Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) or Instant Runoff. In those systems, every
ballot has a means for ranking all candidates in order of preference.
(It may or may not be required that every ballot must assign a ranking
to every candidate.) When it is determined that one candidate has
received the lowest count of first choice votes, the corresponding ballots are
redistributed to the candidates ranked second choice on those ballots. The
process is repeated until a winner is determined.
Three advantages are immediately apparent:
(1) A blatantly unpopular first choice vote is not wasted
because the same ballot will be counted in favor a more popular lower choice
candidate on that ballot.
(2) There is no repeat election because the reassignment
of ballots accomplishes the runoff function within the first voting.
(3) An unsuccessful first choice is recorded like an official
poll result. While opinion polls do not rise to the significance of binding
elections, the first selections on "unsuccessful" ballots constitute valid and
important expressions of voter choices submitted within binding elections.
They will not be dismissed lightly.
The first two features are comforting reassurances by
themselves. The primary advantage, though, is the discourse assured by
the third item.
(3a) Voters are not motivated to ignore their true
feelings in making their first choices. Public expression is not stifled by
practical concerns over "thrown away" votes.
(3b) Political parties will take note of voter
sentiment. The additional expressions, far from being discarded, influence
office holders and future candidates who want to appeal to a broad base. In a
sense the "opinion" votes are the coalition mechanism praised above:
they deliver the message without requiring that there be an additional
Counting:--Rules, examples and concerns are
plentiful on the internet, where readers are invited to do research on this
worthwhile issue. Toward further discussion of the counting process in a
future blog post, you may leave me a private message in the blog footer or
share your insights in the public comments section below.
am urgently asking readers to engage with this topic for the benefit of our
democracy. We need to open up elections to diverse viewpoints without
throwing away votes, and we need to eliminate the fatigue, expense, and
rehashing associated with runoff elections. Getting neighborhood discussions
to agree on specific implementation is a small effort compared to the enormity
of the benefit.
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