Former Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean has long supported IRV.
Excerpt from Dean's book What We Do Now:
Comment on "NewsNight," CNN, November 12, 2003:
One of the first issues we need to address if we’re going to get out the vote at a level required by a truly participatory democracy is the lack of excitement many people feel for the candidates put forth by our parties.
Right now, in primaries, and in general elections where there’s a third-party candidate, a fair number of voters feel forced to choose the candidate they think is viable. In the end, if they really want to defeat the opposition, they choose the candidate they think is most likely to do so, without enthusiasm and without much pride. As they often put it, they feel as if they’re choosing the lesser of two evils. A population that feels like this is not going to be very motivated to vote.
One way to overcome this problem is by changing our voting system so that people can vote for candidates they believe in without risking the kind of outcome we saw in 2000 when third-party candidate Ralph Nader drew enough votes from Al Gore to ensure President Bush’s Electoral College win. Other countries do this through a multi-party system that rules by coalition. We can do it in America by bringing in a new voting system that allows coalitions to be built as you vote. It’s called instant runoff voting.
Instant runoff voting is a system in which you vote by ranking two or three candidates in order of preference. When the votes are tallied, if your top choice gets knocked out of the running, your vote reverts to your number two, and so on. It’s like having a runoff election, only you don’t need two elections to do it. This system, which has attracted the interest of a number of reform-minded people around the United States, is already in use in Europe and in city council elections in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Instant runoff voting was successful in San Francisco on Nov. 2. Although there were some minor glitches, I suspect they will keep using it.
By way of illustration: Had we used instant runoff voting in 2000, most Nader supporters would have gone to the polls and voted for Ralph Nader first and Al Gore second. Since Nader, in the three-way tally afterward, wouldn’t have finished in one of the top two slots, Al Gore would have been the beneficiary of roughly 60 percent of his votes and would have been chosen as the next president of the United States. (Most of Pat Buchanan’s votes most likely would have gone to President Bush.)
Instant runoff voting would be beneficial for our electoral process, because it would encourage candidates to hold a firm set of principles without worrying that their beliefs could make them unviable. It would allow people to vote for candidates they really want to elect, thereby increasing both enthusiasm and turnout.
If I could do anything I wanted and have campaign finance reform, here's what I would do. I would have small donations allowed, $100 or less. I would have public financing of everybody's campaign. And I would limit people's spending, so nobody could go outside the public financing system. And I would have instant run-off voting, so, when you had more candidates than just two, the person with a majority of votes would win. Now, that's what I would like to do. I believe in campaign finance reform. But I don't believe in campaign finance reform that gives a significant advantage to the Republican Party. And that's what we have now.
Howard Dean frequently mentions IRV when asked about campaign finance reform. For example, at the Linn County Iowa Democratic Fundraising Dinner on January 18, 2003 that was carried on CSPAN, Dean said:
If you want real campaign finance reform, here's what you've got to do, and you have to do all three at once. You have to do public financing of campaigns, you have to have instant runoff voting, so Ralph Nader doesn't take the election away from Al Gore, although we know it was really the Supreme Court that did that, and you've got to have either a constitutional amendment or a better court that will say free speech and political contributions are not the same thing. We can do better than the FEC is doing right now, which is busy gutting McCain/Feingold, which a lot of people right here worked very hard for.