I am not sure IRV is a credible system, who supports IRV
A. IRV is widely used abroad, including
in Australia, which has used the system for over 80 years to elect its House of Representatives. San Francisco
uses IRV to elect all local officials, as does Burlington (VT). In Alameda County, Berkeley and San Leandro have
amended their charters to use IRV (but have not yet used IRV for technical reasons), and a few years ago Oakland
did too, but only to fill vacancies. IRV has strong support from good government groups, such as the Oakland
League of Women Voters and California Common Cause, and is endorsed by over a dozen local elected officials.(see other
I've listened to a description of how instant runoffs
are tabulated, and it seems complicated. Is instant runoff voting too complicated?
Not for the voter! Voters simply rank the candidates in order of preference.
In many ways, this is simpler than the current sustem because Voters no longer
need to fret about whether their favorite candidate has a good chance to win,
or if they are "wasting" their vote, or even helping their least preferred candidate. For many voters
this makes it actually easier to vote — there's no strategy involved!
The only "complicated" aspect of instant runoff voting is the
tabulation that occurs if there is no initial majority winner. But even this
is not so different from the current runoff system. When no one gets a majority,
instead of having to organize a second election to determine the runoff winner (which we currently do),
IRV does this instantly because everyone marked their second choice on their ballot in advance.
I would find it hard to rank a bunch of candidates, I might
not know much about some of them. What if I only like one candidate?
That's fine, you can just vote for one person if you like, and your vote would
count just as much as your vote counts in the current system. Instant runoff
voting simply gives the option of expressing additional preferences if you wish.
Your second choice vote would only be used if no candidate has a majority (over
half the votes) and your first-choice candidate happens to be eliminated in the
But it seems like some voters are getting two votes, while
others are only getting one. Am I right?
No. It's like a runoff election — everyone gets to vote in the original
election and they get the chance to vote in the runoff. Everybody gets an equal
vote. In every round of counting, every ballot counts as one vote for the
highest-ranked candidate still in the running. If your candidate is still viable,
your vote will continue to count for your favorite candidate. If your candidate
has been eliminated, rather than getting zero vote, your vote automatically
counts for your next favorite candidate. After a legal challenge to the use of
IRV in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the court ruled that IRV fully complied with the
principle of "one person, one vote."
Will IRV require the purchase of new voting machines? How
much will IRV cost?
Oakland would not need to purchase new machines. Alameda County recently
entered into an agreement with Sequoia, its new elections systems provider,
to have all county voting equipment IRV-ready by 2007.
If Oakland chose to use IRV for all elections, the city would incur a one-time
voter education cost of approximately
$400,000. Fortunately, these costs will be re-couped because IRV eliminates the need
for costly runoff elections, which the City Auditor estimated costs up to $500,000. Oaklanders
will see net cost savings within the first few elections where a citywide runoff would have otherwise
been required. For more information, go to
IRV Dollars and Sense.
How long will it take to implement IRV?
Alameda County has signed a contract with Sequoia such that all county elections equipment will
be IRV-ready by 2007. Oaklanders for IRV is advocating that all city elections be
run using IRV by 2008. The text of Measure O specifies that IRV elections will not be conducted until the County
is ready to run them.
How does IRV affect minorities?
As an election system, IRV does not advantage any ethnic group over another.
However, because IRV promotes voter participation, it can especially benefit
minority groups where voter turnout is traditionally much much lower. For more information,
go to IRV and Minorities.
Why not just use a familiar two-election runoff procedure?
Regular runoffs are usually better than plurality rules, because the majority
can't split their vote. However, two-round runoffs have distinct disadvantages.
A traditional runoff extends the campaign season, which most voters object to.
Traditional runoffs are also costly, both to the taxpayer who must pay for the
duplicate election and to the candidates who must double campaign fund-raising,
prolonging their stress and creating more potential influence for campaign donors.
IRV assures that the ultimate decision will be made at the election with the
greatest level of citizen participation. Runoffs tend to have a low voter turnout.
The winner of a runoff may receive far fewer votes than an opponent won in the
original election, leading to doubts about the "will of the people,"
hobbled legitimacy, and lack of a perceived mandate. Finally, in a big field of
candidates, the strongest candidate might finish third and miss the runoff
Our elections still doesn't seem to have that big of a
problem. "If it ain't broke—don't fix it." Right?
The electoral system is broken. Oakland's elections take place when voter turnout is
dismally low. For special elections, there is no majority requirement so candidates have been
winning with less than 35 percent of the vote. On top of all that, the runoff system discourages
people from voting sincerely for the candidate they truly believe in. Simply put, because of our
current electoral system, local democracy is not very representative of Oakland. For more
information, go to IRV and Democracy.
Is instant runoff voting constitutional?
Absolutely. In fact, any state right now can adopt IRV for selecting U.S.
presidential electors by a mere state law—there is no need for a federal
constitutional amendment. The U.S. constitution leaves it up to the states to
decide how to conduct their elections. In California, Charter Cities (like
Oakland) may use IRV by amending their Charters. San Francisco did just this
several years ago, and has legally used IRV since 2004.