21. IRV is superior to two-round runoff elections

In our society, for many reasons, it is hard to get many voters to pay attention to election campaigns. Unlike in a traditional two-round runoff election, voters only have to pay attention once with IRV. A traditional runoff extends the campaign season and can be met with a collective sigh of "Oh no, here we go again." IRV increases the likelihood that the ultimate decision will be made at the election with the greatest level of citizen participation. Runoffs tend to have a lower voter turnout, though there are, of course, exceptions. Imagine the turnout for a runoff for a more minor office such as state Treasurer. The winner of a runoff may get fewer votes than an opponent got in the original election, leading to doubts about the "will of the people," hobbled legitimacy, and lack of a perceived mandate.

Traditional runoffs are also costly, both to the taxpayer who must pay for the duplicate election and to the candidates who must resume campaign fund-raising and prolong the stress on their families and business lives. The cost of ballot retabulation in the case of IRV is a tiny fraction of the cost of holding a new election.

Traditional runoffs can also create doubts about candidates’ sincerity as they change their message and repackage themselves based on their narrowed opposition, and the new perceived swing voters.

IRV eliminates one of the biggest confusions for many voters that traditional runoffs don’t solve. When there are more than two candidates, many voters currently make a complex calculus of what candidate they want compared to what candidate they think can win and what candidate they don’t want that might win if they "waste" their vote on the candidate they actually prefer. The complexity of this assessment frustrates many voters who may feel either resentment or shame in voting for what they see as the "lesser of two evils" while feeling forced to abandon their true preference. While IRV eliminates the need for this calculation, it persists in traditional runoffs that drop to the top two candidates.

In addition to retaining this complexity, traditional runoffs also introduce a new element of possible manipulation. If voters are confident that there will be a runoff, and their favored candidate will be in it, they may consider voting for the perceived "weaker" or more extreme, opponent in hopes that that candidate will make it to the runoff, knocking off the stronger opponent, and thus improving the chances of their favored candidate. This manipulation may not be widespread but it is certainly real. Witness Vermont’s open primary in which voters whose party has no serious primary challenges vote in the other party’s primary for the perceived weakest opponent. It is widely believed that this logic played a part in Fred Tuttle’s U.S. Senate primary victory.

In Vermont, there is also a constitutional barrier to using traditional runoffs for electing a Governor, Lieutenant Governor or Treasurer. The votes cast to elect these officers must be cast at a single particular election, when Vermonters elect their state representatives, rather than at two separate elections. IRV simply retabulates those same ballots and thus does not run afoul of this restriction. Changing the constitution is extremely difficult. The time-lock on our constitution means that the soonest a change could take effect is for the elections of 2004.