August 10, 2012

Instant Runoff Election: Pick the Bridesmaid

Marc Comtois

Hm. I'm not sure what I think about this idea of a an instant runoff election, yet.

In an instant-runoff election voters will rank candidates by preference. If in the election no candidate wins a majority the last place candidate is eliminated and the second choice pick of voters who selected that candidate counts. The process continues until one candidate receives a majority of votes.

The process is designed so that voters do not feel like their vote does not count or that they are wasting their vote if they select an unlikely candidate.

If Rhode Island had run-off elections in place during the governor’s race in 2010 it is possible the election would have had a different outcome. Moderate candidate Ken Block, who received 6.5% of the vote would have been the first to be eliminated spreading his votes between Independent Lincoln Chafee, Democrat Frank Caprio, and Republican John Robitaille. Caprio who received 23% of the vote would likely have been eliminated next. Those votes would be divided between Chafee and Robitaille, which would have provided one of them with a majority of the vote.

After the 2010 election in which Governor Lincoln Chafee won with 36% of the vote to Robitaille’s 33% the General Assembly voted to establish the commission. The commission is expected to report its findings next year.

On the face of it, ensuring that whomever wins a particular elected office actually does so by winning the majority of all votes cast--sorta--is probably better than, say, having a Governor win with around 36% of the vote. Then again, this could also give the (eventual) winner the misconception that they won with some sort of mandate when they were actually the second choice of the people that actually put them over the top. And that leads to the biggest problem. It's entirely conceivable that the person listed as everyone's second choice could end up being governor. Maybe this should be called Bridesmaid Runoff Reform.

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This may not help you choose IRV, but I think it's a great idea.

As far as the mandate goes, when the election results are announced, the candidate (and everyone else) will see how poorly they did in the first rounds, and can infer from that information what that means for "mandates".

Also, I'd rather have someone who was the majority's second choice rather than someone who everyone voted against.

Posted by: SGH at August 10, 2012 10:24 AM

Let's hope this comes to RI, if for no other reason than to end the moans each election that I vote for the latest corporate Democrat instead of with my conscience.

Posted by: Russ at August 10, 2012 11:32 AM

Guys, As I said, still making my mind up. Though I am inclined to give it a try in "real world" experimentation. Things can't get worse, right?

Posted by: Marc at August 10, 2012 1:10 PM

I was out working in the SF/Oak area for a few months earlier in the year. They have this and after a few go arounds they are thinking about ditching it. You end up with some strange results.

Posted by: Tom at August 10, 2012 5:14 PM

I don't know, IRV encourages more people to enter, the typical plurality system we use now discourages it. I'd prefer that the parties aim to win elections by nominating the most broadly acceptable candidates to keep out challengers rather than nominating more extreme ones and hoping to squeeze through a tough battle. 2010 was an odd election, and rules shouldn't be changed with the exception in mind (and, even then, the candidates we had to choose from were pretty reasonable all-around; the result was bad, but not awful).

You could make the case that RI needs radical reform, so radical candidates are needed, but I have no faith in the wisdom of the average RI voter, and think that we would be far more likely to get the completely wrong kind of radical.

Posted by: Mario at August 10, 2012 6:06 PM

Don't know about IRV,but would like a binding "None of the above" on the ballot.

IRV is an interesting concept,I intend to learn more about it.

Posted by: helen at August 11, 2012 3:32 AM
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