Yes On Three

Another view on IRV

Published: October 6th, 2006 in The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Western Washington University political scientist Todd Donovan is an expert on voting systems and reforms. Donovan provided this response to an e-mail seeking his views on instant runoff voting. I'm a fan of IRV, so this isn't an unbiased reply. There’s a chapter in a book I did ("Reforming the Republic") on different ways to do presidential elections that gives some examples of IRV (or "alternative vote," as it's called in Australia).

One reason I think it is an upgrade is that IRV helps make general election outcomes better reflect what a majority of people want. People can vote for minor candidates without electing some other candidate they fear. Winners will have more claim to representing a majority.

Another reason is that primaries are increasingly meaningless. Most races are uncontested in the primary. And if independents want to make a run, they have little chance under a pick-a-party primary or a top-two system where parties dominate.

I think IRV sort of transfers some of the better elements of the old blanket system from the primary to the general. It gives more voters more choices, and they can vote for who they really like without shooting themselves in the foot.

Finally, the Pierce County version of IRV is about fair ballot access (in my mind) as much as about how votes are counted. I'm not sure this is how the proponents are pitching it, but I expect this might be why the major party folks don't like it. It opens up the ballot, which means more candidates talking to people about local issues. That's a good thing, I figure.











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