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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Instant runoff voting in the US is nothing like IRV or STV in Australian or Ireland

Will using Instant Runoff Voting for the Oscars help spread IRV in the US? Anthony Green hopes that using instant runoff voting to decide the Oscars will. Green, who writes about Australian elections, has this blog out Introducing the 2-Film Preferred Vote
"News has been passed on to me of a major advance in spreading the benefits of preferential voting to the rest of the world....The voting system for the Oscars may give some attention to the push for preferential voting in the United States, or as they call it stateside, the Instant Run-off Vote (IRV)."

But you just can't compare US elections to Australian or Ireland's elections. IRV combined with US voting systems is very complex. Our system would have to be completely changed from top to bottom to be like Australia's election system.

US ballots are not like Australian or Irish Ballots. The Australian or Irish ballot typically has a single contest on it, and voters mark a paper ballot with a pen. Then the ballots are sorted and counted by hand, under observation of the public. Ireland only uses IRV to elect their President, a ceremonial office, and elections are held only every 7 years. Sometimes there is no contest because there is no challenger. Again, there's only one contest on a single ballot and Ireland hand counts their ballots.

Administering and tallying the vote is complex - IRV isn't additive and the ballots can't just be simply tallied at the polls but have to be centrally counted.

In the US, it is much different. A typical San Francisco IRV ballot will have 2-3 pages and several contests (not just one) just for a municipal election.
This creates an information demand on the voters and an administrative demand on the voting systems. SF also uses computers to tally IRV and this casts additional doubt over the outcome of the election. IRV has been a challenge to tally in San Francisco, Aspen CO and Pierce County Washington. In Cary North Carolina, officials couldn't count just 3,000 ballots correctly by hand.

IRV in the US is restricted, it isn't like in Australia where all choices have to be ranked by the voters. There's a lawsuit right now to stop SF from using what is called "restrictive IRV", where San Francisco restricts voters to ranking only 3 choices per contest even if there are a dozen or more candidates.

The restriction often causes majority failure: many ballots are exhausted long before the end of the contest and it also explains why SF had to redefine exactly what a majority was.

Before IRV in San Francisco, a majority was 50% + 1 ballots, but with IRV it is 50% of "votes" that are left after all others are eliminated.

IRV has basically entrenched the two party monopoly and third parties only survive if they were already strong before IRV was implemented. Burlington Vt was electing third party candidates long before IRV was introduced there. But citizens there are going to vote on repealing IRV soon.
Instant runoff voting is embraced based on the talking points, and rejected based on the realities: Aspen CO ditched IRV, Cary NC ditched IRV, and Pierce County WA ditched IRV. Burlington VT voters will soon decide whether to repeal IRV or not.

In the US, we can't count plain old vanilla elections accurately or honestly, and adding complexity to the ballot just makes things even worse.

IRV just isn't practical, at least not in the US.

February 5, 2010
Group sues to stop instant runoff elections in San Francisco, hearing 3-12

February 6, 2010
Vote YES on question #5 Want to repeal IRV? Then vote YES! on March 2, 2010. Let's keep voting simple. Repeal IRV is a non-partisan citizens group based in Burlington, Vermont

MOVING TO DITCH. BURLINGTON VT to decide at the polls on March 2, 2010...
Aspen Election Review May 5 2009 IRV single ballot audit unit
DITCHED ON NOV 3, 2009. PIERCE COUNTY WASHINGTON Majority of Pierce County voters reject Instant Runoff Voting on Nov 3

DITCHED. BRITISH COLUMBIA (2ND TIME) 61% of the voters gave a thumbs down for STV, Single Transferrable Vote, a ranking method in British Columbia. May 12, 2009.

DITCHED. CARY NORTH CAROLINA Cary North Carolina rejected a second go at IRV, voted to keep current election method WRAL News Apr. 30 2009 Cary NC tries IRV, then says ‘no more’

February 21, 2009 Georgetown University ditches Instant Runoff Voting - cites problems The Hoya and No IRV in NC Blog

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