The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

9 November 2006

Voice your second choice

From 2005, Michael Bates explains Instant Runoff Voting:

Under IRV, voting is simple. Voters rank the candidates in order: I mark a 1 next to my favorite, then mark a 2 next to the name of the candidate who would be the my choice if my favorite weren't in the race, and so on down the list.

It's called instant runoff voting because it's equivalent to having a series of runoff elections, eliminating the low vote-getter each pass and choosing among the remaining candidates. The advantage of IRV over a series of runoff elections is that you only have to open the polls once. IRV is used to elect the President of Ireland, members of Parliament in Australia, and here in Tulsa it was used at the 1st District Republican Conventions of 2000 and 2004 to elect delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention. I first experienced IRV in college — we used it in our fraternity to elect officers.

At the very least, Tulsa needs a runoff in special elections, but it would be better still to use IRV in all elections. As a charter city, Tulsa could choose to do that.

This week, voters in Minneapolis chose to use IRV in municipal elections, the result of a campaign by a "grassroots coalition of political parties, social justice and environmental groups, religious institutions, and others." (List here.) Admittedly, on the red/blue continuum, Minneapolis is just this side of indigo, but I have to believe that some of the handful of conservatives in town liked the idea. (If nothing else, there's the appeal to taxpayers: it saves the cost of runoffs when one candidate fails to win a majority. Maybe Lileks will weigh in one of these days.)

It would admittedly be tricky to adopt IRV to the Oklahoma optical-scan voting system, but surely it's not impossible.

(Via Swirlspice.)

Posted at 8:20 AM to Political Science Fiction


Burlington, Vermont, does IRV with an optically scanned ballot.

The Optech III scanners Oklahoma uses can only scan four columns of marks, and the data pack only has to keep a running count of votes for Smith, Jones, and Brown. A data pack designed for IRV would have to keep track of each vote order for each race. Although our current scanners have served us well, they're starting to wear out and are going to need to be replaced soon. Maybe we should buy what Burlington bought.

Then again, we could follow the Irish example. They do IRV and still count the ballots by hand.

Posted by: Michael Bates at 10:02 AM on 9 November 2006

Candidates can be assigned a line, and the voter fills in the appropriate bubble (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) on each candidate's line for their selection order.

An obvious separator would be required to divide each section, in order to prevent selecting, say, a senate candidate as one's second choice in the House of Representatives race.

Posted by: timekeeper at 10:33 AM on 9 November 2006

Perhaps I should have looked at the link in the previous post before I replied...that is exactly what I was imagining.

Posted by: timekeeper at 10:35 AM on 9 November 2006

I'm all for it. However, didn't Minneapolis also choose to be represented by a Muslim? That fact alone might sour the idea for many Oklahomans.

Posted by: MikeH at 11:03 AM on 9 November 2006

Yeah, I've seen gripes that IRV is only going to help Democrats. But that reasoning is mainly based on the current slate of Dems vs Repubs vs Other. Of course it would be different with a slew of different candidates. IRV would have helped Bush Sr the year that Perot ran.

We have optical scan voting in MN, too. So I'm not sure what they'll do there.

Posted by: Erica at 12:17 PM on 9 November 2006

Call it IRV and no one will understand, put it in the context of a vote-them-off reality show and everyone will figure it out. Or describe it like the AP Top 25 and then let the sportcasters take over election reporting.

Posted by: Dan B at 4:59 PM on 9 November 2006

As for Keith Ellison, I'm more concerned with his ties to Louis Farrakhan than his stated religion.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:42 PM on 9 November 2006