Instant runoff voting pros outweigh
August 25, 2002
Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also known as
preferential voting, is a method of voting that allows voters to
rank up to five candidates in order of preference. Under this
method, if no candidate receives a majority (50 percent plus 1),
runoff rounds are conducted until one candidate receives a majority.
In the first runoff round, the candidate with the fewest first-place
votes is eliminated and the candidates remaining advance to the next
round. The process is continued until one candidate comes out on top
with a majority. Voters can still show preference for fewer than
five or just one candidate if they so choose.
Since all of the preferences selected by each voter
are entered into a computerized tabulation system, the simple
mathematical calculations for each round would happen very quickly.
U.S. presidential and Alaska statewide elections have
been impacted greatly since 1990 due to the proliferation of
political parties competing for voter support. The Jeffersonian
ideal of majority rule is no longer the norm in our general
In a recent Anchorage Daily News column, IRV advocates
Jim Sykes and Ken Jacobus acknowledged this trend by observing, "Now
that more candidates are competing for the same office, we continue
to use an electoral method where candidates can win with smaller and
smaller minority percentages. Not only that, but under our current
electoral system a vote for your favorite candidate actually can
help elect your least favorite in multiple candidate races."
In 1998, popular professional wrestler Jesse Ventura
was elected governor of Minnesota with just 37 percent of the vote.
Although his victory was a landmark achievement for a third-party
candidate, 63 percent of Minnesota's voters opposed him.
Out of the 11 gubernatorial elections Alaska has had
since statehood, only three have produced governors selected by
Backers of IRV cite many advantages. IRV:
* Increases voter turnout by giving voters more
choices and confidence that a vote for their favorite candidate will
not be wasted.
* Eliminates spoilers - candidates with remote chances
of winning who siphon votes from front runners.
* Promotes positive, issue-based campaigns while
serving as a deterrent to mudslinging tactics as candidates would be
more reliant upon each other for pass-along support.
* Preserves the one-person, one-vote principle.
* Does not favor one party over another. IRV is
* Costs far less than a separate runoff election. The
estimated cost to launch the system statewide is $175,000. It costs
$840,000 to conduct a statewide election, while runoff elections in
Anchorage cost $100,000 each. Even if the cost will actually be much
higher, as critics claim, IRV will still be cost-justified.
* Eliminates the need for voters to return to the
polls for runoffs. Traditionally voter participation falls off
significantly for runoffs.
IRV would not be used to settle races for governor and
lieutenant governor as those contests are constitutionally
constrained in Alaska and decided by whoever gets the most votes.
Opponents of IRV include some mainstream Republicans,
Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, the League of Women Voters of Alaska and the
Democratic Party. Critics of IRV say that the system is unnecessary,
complicated and expensive.
The initiative to put Ballot Measure 1 in front of
voters at next Tuesday's primary was signed by 40,000 Alaskans. A
wide range of political parties supports the measure, including
Green, Libertarian, Alaskan Independence, Republican and Republican
IRV has been used for 70 years
in Australia and is also used in Ireland. The system has been getting a
test at some municipalities around the United States; however, to
date there are no states using it.
Alaska is in an excellent position to be the first
state to adopt IRV.
Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who oversees the state Division
of Elections, has transformed the state's election infrastructure
into one of the most technologically advanced systems in the U.S.
This technology along with Alaska's simpler and more
centralized organization of election subdivisions places the state
in an ideal position to make an easy conversion to IRV. Help place
Alaska at the forefront of democracy.
Vote yes on Ballot Measure No. 1 next Tuesday.
For more information on IRV, visit: www.alaskansforvotersrights.com.