Click here to read the other side of this week’s Point-Counterpoint: “IRV, a voting spoiler alert”
Have you ever looked at the Democratic and Republican candidates and thought, ‘Wow I really don’t want to vote for either of these jerks?’ If your answer was ‘yes,’ then instant runoff voting may be for you.
The instant runoff vote, or IRV, is a form of ranked choice voting where the voter is able to rank their choices in order of preference. The number of choices a voter is allowed depends on the specific type of runoff election.
The candidate with the least number of votes is removed from the ballot and the second choice is counted as the vote for the ballots where the losing candidate is the first choice. This process repeats as many times as the specific voting policy allows.
Let’s use an election with three candidates to further demonstrate how this type of voting system would work: Candidate A receives 500 votes, candidate B receives 450 votes and candidate C receives 200 votes. In this case, candidate C would be eliminated from the race.
The votes for candidate C would be split between the other two candidates. If 150 of candidate C’s votes had candidate B as their second choice, candidate B would have a total of 600 votes and candidate A would have a final total of 550 votes.
The instant runoff voting system allows citizens to vote for their favorite candidate without being afraid of the “spoiler effect.” Spoilers are usually candidates from a party other than the GOP or the Democratic Party who take away votes from the candidates closest to them on the political spectrum.
In the recent gubernatorial election in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Independent Tim Cahill was seen as a possible “spoiler,” for Charlie Baker and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein a “spoiler,” for Gov. Patrick. The presidential race in 2000 was historically close. Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, was considered by some a spoiler candidate for Al Gore, and one of the reasons Gore lost the election, similar to what was said of Ross Perot’s presidential campaigns in the mid-1990s.
Without any “spoilers,” the Democratic and Republican Parties will have to face the fact that they lose elections because of their own terrible candidates.
Instant runoff voting would also level the playing field for viable third party candidates. In covering the elections for the Daily Collegian I encountered several people in Northampton, Amherst and the University of Massachusetts campus that said they would have voted for Jill Stein if they weren’t afraid that Charlie Baker would win the election.
If there had been runoff voting, it is tough to say how much better Stein would have done. She probably would have been the first to be eliminated, since she only received one percent of the vote, but this doesn’t mean the instant runoff system couldn’t benefit another third party candidate, or increase the long-term viability of third party candidates in future elections in general.
According to instantrunoffvoting.com, the IRV system is already up and running at a small scale in several areas in the U.S., including all federal, state and local elections for overseas voters in Arkansas, for mayor and city council in Aspen, Colo., for mayor, city council and city offices in Minneapolis, Minn., for mayor, Board of Supervisors and most city offices in San Francisco, Calif. and, as of this month, for mayor and city council in Berkeley, Calif.
Instant runoff is now a tried and true tested in preferential voting on a global and national scale. It may not be perfect, but it is better than the current system we have in place, which minimizes the impact of third party candidates, whose voices are badly needed in today’s polluted Washington atmosphere.
The two major political parties have been failing us for the past two decades. To change this we have to change the way we vote. The IRV seems to be our only hope.
Bobby Hitt can be reached at email@example.com.