What is Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)?
Instant runoff voting is a winner-take-all, constitutionally protected, voting system that ensures a winning candidate will receive a majority of votes rather than a simple plurality. IRV eliminates the need for runoff elections by allowing voters to rank their candidates in order of preference.
Arguments for IRV
Instant runoff voting (IRV) corrects the defects in plurality elections and two-round runoff elections, the two most widely used voting systems in the country. Efforts to replace plurality election laws with this more democratic alternative are underway in Alaska, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington, and California.
Instant runoff voting allows for better voter choice and wider voter participation by accommodating multiple candidates in single seat races and assuring that a "spoiler"-effect will not result in undemocratic outcomes. Instant runoff voting allows all voters to vote for their favorite candidate without fear of helping elect their least favorite candidate, and it ensures that the winner enjoys true support from a majority of the voters. Plurality voting, used in most American elections, does not meet these basic requirements for a fair election system that promotes wide participation, and traditional runoff elections are costly to the taxpayer and often suffer from low voter turnout.
Instant runoff voting is a winner-take-all system that ensures that a winning candidate will receive a majority of votes rather than a simple plurality. In plurality voting -- as used in most U.S. elections -- candidates can win with less than a majority when there are more than two candidates running for the office. In contrast, IRV elects a majority candidate while still allowing voters to support a candidate who is not a front-runner. IRV is a sensible method in single winner elections.
IRV allows voters to rank candidates as their first choice, second choice, third, fourth and so on. If a candidate does not receive a clear majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoff counts are conducted, using each voters top choice indicated on the ballot. The candidate who received the fewest first place ballots is eliminated. All ballots are then retabulated, with each ballot counting as one vote for each voter's favorite candidate who is still in contention. Voters who chose the now-eliminated candidate have to support their second choice candidate -- just as if they were voting in a traditional two-round runoff election -- but all other voters get to continue supporting their top candidate. This process continues until a candidate receives a majority.