Using IRV to Make
Instant runoff voting is designed to determine the candidate who is supported
by a majority of the voters. Voter ranks candidates in
order of choice, and ballots are sorted by first choices. Then
the weakest candidate is eliminated, and each ballot cast for an
eliminated candidate is redistributed to the voter's next
choice. The process of eliminating candidates and
redistributing votes is repeated until two candidates remain, and
the candidate with the greater number of votes is elected.
Political clubs and other
organizations can use instant runoff voting to make endorsement
If you are considering using IRV
for endorsement decisions and would like assistance, please contact
Endorsement decisions often have
two features not found in public elections:
Gaining an endorsement may
require a higher percentage than 50%. Many groups use 60% or
a two-thirds vote (66.7%)
Organizations sometimes give
members the option of voting for "No Endorsement" or "None of the Above."
If you decide to use IRV for an
endorsement process and you use one or both of these features, we
recommend that you use the following guidelines, which you may want
to incorporate into your bylaws or standing rules.
There are other ways of handling these issues, but we recommend the following
guidelines as an effective, comprehensive way of conducting endorsement decisions.
Making Organizational Endorsements
Rationale: Organizations use
supermajorities and the No Endorsement option to ensure that
endorsed candidates enjoy strong support from a large
part of the organization. The idea is to
avoid endorsing candidates who can only gain slight majorities of
support, because those endorsements leave a large portion of your
membership unhappy with the endorsement.
Rules in addition to standard
IRV ballot counting rules:
Let's assume the endorsement
threshold is 60%, but any threshold will work.
Voters rank candidates in
order of choice, they can include No Endorsement as one of their
options, and they are free to rank as many or as few candidates as they like.
Endorsement requires an
by at least 60% of the members who cast valid
ballots in the endorsement process.
No Endorsement is special; it
can never be eliminated.
An "exhausted" ballot counts
toward No Endorsement, since all of the candidates
supported by that voter have been eliminated, which means the
voter prefers No Endorsement compared to all remaining
candidates. Ballots become exhausted when they only rank
candidates who have been eliminated.
- Eliminate human candidates until you are left with one
human candidate. If that candidate has a vote total greater
than or equal to 60% of the total valid votes cast, the
candidate receives the endorsement. Otherwise, No
Endorsement carries the day.
Rules 3, 4 and 5 may
seem strange, but they ensure that endorsements are only given to candidates actively supported by a large number of voters
and that all voters have the opportunity to express a preference
between the top human candidate and No Endorsement.
recommend a ballot like the following. It is difficult for a
voter to cast an invalid vote using this ballot.
Please write the names of your 1st
choice, your 2nd choice, and so on. You may
vote for as many or as few candidates as you wish.
You may include "No Endorsement" as one of your options. Do not
list candidates below "No Endorsement," as "No Endorsement" is never
Example: Consider an endorsement decision
with the 3 candidates on the sample ballot and the "No
Endorsement" option. Let's imagine that a political club uses
a 60% threshold and that 40
members fill out ballots for an endorsement. An endorsement requires 24
votes (60% of 40).
Let's imagine first choice votes end up like this:
This means seven voters
preferred No Endorsement over all remaining candidates.
Braxton is the candidate with the fewest votes and gets eliminated.
Let's imagine that the 6 ballots for Braxton list the following 2nd
No Endorsement 2
In round 2, Appleby picks up 2 votes, Carlson picks up
1 and No Endorsement/Exhausted picks up a total of 3 votes.
Candidate 1st Rnd 2nd
Now Appleby is the candidate with the fewest votes. Let's
imagine that the next choices on Appleby's 12 ballots are
Carlson picks up 7
votes, and the other 5 votes go to No
Candidate 1st Rnd 2nd Rnd 3rd
In this example, 25 out of 40 members (62.5%)
preferred endorsing Carlson over No Endorsement, so Carlson gets the endorsement. If Carlson had ended up
with 23 or fewer votes, the recommendation would have
been No Endorsement.
A Few Technical
Questions about This Process
Q: Our bylaws require that No
Endorsement always be an option. Is this a
A: No. The combination No Endorsement/Exhausted
is always an option. It is never
Q: Why do you eliminate the 2nd strongest human
candidate, Carlson? Why not eliminate until
you're left with 2 candidates and see if either one has enough for an
A: Because we
need to discover whether supporters of the 2nd strongest candidate
prefer the other candidate or no endorsement. In our example, if
your first choice was Appleby and your second choice was Carlson,
you wouldn't want your vote for Appleby to contribute to a
No Endorsement, which is what would happen if we didn't
eliminate Appleby at the end to see if Carlson gained enough support to
win an endorsement. If you want Appleby or nothing, you should
rank Appleby 1st and No Endorsement 2nd. Then when Appleby
gets eliminated, your vote won't contribute to the endorsement of
Q: When determining
whether the leading candidate received 60% of
the votes, you used 40 votes total in the denominator
even though only 30 voters supported a candidate in round 2 and
25 in round 3. Why not use 25 or 30 votes in the
A: Because the questions for
an endorsement is, "Does a large percentage of our members support
one particular candidate?" If you reduce the denominator to
25 or 30, then you are disregarding the votes of the people
who are trying to prevent an endorsement.
Q: What happens
if a voter lists a 2nd choice candidate after ranking No Endorsement
A: That 2nd choice never gets used because
that ballot will always count toward
Q: What happens
if I only list a 1st choice candidate and then leave 2nd, 3rd, etc
A: That's the same
as listing your favorite candidate 1st and then listing No
Endorsement 2nd. Your ballot will count for your favorite
candidate until that person gets eliminated. Then it will
count to prevent an endorsement if enough other people prefer no
If you have any
more questions about this process, please contact Caleb