Questions about Instant Runoff Voting
is instant runoff voting?
runoff voting (IRV) is a way to determine a majority winner in a
single election, eliminating the need for a December runoff
indicate their runoff choices in advance by ranking candidates in
order of choice (1, 2, 3) so that no runoff election is necessary is
necessary if no candidate receives an outright majority.
are the advantages?
IRV is more democratic.
Winning requires a majority in November, when voter turnout
is highest. Voter
turnout, for example, declined by 45% from November to December
2000. Second, IRV saves
money and time. Runoff elections cost the taxpayers up to $2 million
and require voters to take time away from their families and jobs in
December; IRV eliminates these hardships. Third, IRV promotes
positive, issue-oriented campaigning and coalition-building. Winning an instant runoff
voting election requires reaching out to the whole community because
winning may require 2nd choice votes from opponentsí
have an incentive to stick to the issues, attract voters to their
agenda, and refrain from negative, personal
is popular around the Bay Area and used around the world. It has been authorized in Oakland
for special elections, it was approved by voters for use in Santa
Clara County and San Leandro, and its used in several political
clubs and non-profit organizations in San Francisco. Internationally, London just
used it to elect its mayor, Ireland has used IRV for 80 years for
president, and Australia uses IRV to elect its House of
does it work?
acts like a series of runoff elections in which one candidate is
eliminated each election.
time a candidate is eliminated, all voters get to choose among the
remaining candidates. If anyone receives a majority of the first
choice votes, that candidate is elected. If not, the last place
candidate is defeated, just as in a runoff election, and all ballots
are counted again, but this time each ballot cast for the defeated
candidate counts for the next choice candidate of listed on the
ballot. The process of eliminating the last place candidate and
recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a
majority of the vote. With San Franciscoís voting equipment, all of
the counting and recounting takes place rapidly and
this too complex for the voter?
All the voter has to do is rank one or more candidates. Itís like
renting a video or picking an ice cream: What video (or flavor) do
you want? Thatís your first choice. If they donít have that video
(or flavor), what would you like? Thatís your second choice. If they
donít have that, whatís your third pick? Thatís all there is to it.
Itís as easy as 1-2-3.
San Franciscoís voting equipment handle IRV?
Yes. The current voting equipment can handle
IRV. The vendor is making minor modifications to the
hardware and developing new software, but the small cost of
these changes will be more
than offset by savings in the first year of use. In
future years, IRV will continue to provide savings without any additional costs.
IRV give extra votes to supporters of defeated
In each round, every voterís ballot counts for exactly one
candidate. In this respect, itís just like a two-round runoff
election. You vote for your favorite candidate in the first round.
If your candidate advances to the second round, you keep supporting
that candidate. If not, you get to pick among the remaining
candidates. In IRV, candidates get eliminated one at a time, and
each time, all voters get to select among the remaining candidates.
At each step of the ballot counting, every voter has exactly one
vote for a continuing candidate.
IRV eliminate ìspoilersî and vote
In multiple-candidate races, like-minded constituencies can split
their vote among their own competing candidates, allowing a
candidate with less overall support to prevail. IRV allows those
voters to rank all of their candidates and watch as votes transfer
to their candidate with the most support. In partisan races, IRV
prevents the possibility of a third party candidate ìspoilingî the
race by taking enough votes from one major candidate to elect the
San Francisco voters already vote on this
In 1996, San Francisco voters chose to move away from at-large
supervisorial elections to district elections. The ballot also contained a
proportional representation initiative, Proposition H. That system used a
ranked-ballot system like that used in IRV but was a very different
proposal. It was an
at-large system using a proportional allocation of seats. At that time, voters favored
the district election model that IRV
IRV save money?
IRV eliminates the cost of runoff elections since it determines a
majority winner in a single election. In San Francisco, a citywide
runoff election costs $1.5 million plus up to $200,000 for public
financing. It also
saves voters the time required to head back to the polls in
IRV affect voter turnout?
Turnout generally increases. IRV gives every voter incentive to
participate because your vote still counts even if your first choice
candidate is defeated. Also, since IRV only requires one election,
the decisive election takes place when turnout is highest, typically
IRV affect campaign debate?
Because IRV may require second and third choice votes to win,
candidates have incentive to focus on the issues, to attract voters
to their positions and to form coalitions. Negative campaigning and
personal attacks are much less effective in an IRV election.
does IRV advantage?
IRV allows voters to express more of their preferences in local
elections without returning to the polls for a second runoff
saves up to $2 million in tax dollars per year. The true
finds the majority of the high turnout, November electorate rather
than the majority of the reduced pool of voters in