by Michael Ossipoff
August 9, 2012
A number of organizations, and even a few political parties, use or advocate a voting system called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). IRV would be suitable if everyone agreed on the definition of “acceptable”, i.e. if there weren’t any voters prone to over-compromise, favorite-burial and unquestioning giveaway to a “lesser-evil” and, finally, if there weren’t a count-fraud problem. However, as none of the aforementioned statements are true, IRV is not a suitable choice for political elections.
Under existing conditions, the following issues present some serious problems of IRV:
- Because IRV is a rank method, it is labor and computation-intensive (this is true of all rank methods). Such methods will almost surely be counted by computer. Unfortunately, computerized counting opens up great opportunities for count-fraud, which is one reason why I don’t propose it or any other rank method for official public political elections.
- What if we counted the rank-balloting election by hand anyway, even though it would be a tremendous job? The problem is that the tremendous amount of count-labor would still provide the opportunity for successful count-fraud, as compared to the much simpler and easier Approval count.
In that regard, IRV is even worse than many of the other rank methods including, a personal favorite, Improved Condorcet Top (ICT). You see, IRV is not “precinct-summable”; in a rank-count like ICT, the various precincts can count some relevant sums, and send those sums to a central counting location where those sums could very quickly and easily, with minimal computation, be counted to determine the winner.
That isn’t true of IRV. IRV isn’t precinct-summable. In IRV, it’s necessary for the central count to constantly refer to the rankings at each stage of the count. This would be a count-fraud-security nightmare and it would be a field-day for count-fraud. IRV, thus, has a much greater opportunity for successfully undetected count-fraud.
- Favorite burial incentive: Many rank methods provide incentive for voters to engage in “favorite-burial”–voting someone over their favorite. As I’ve already discussed, Plurality, our “Vote-for-1″ method that we currently use in our official elections, is a prime example of a method that provides an incentive for favorite-burial voting.
Ask someone who votes Democrat, if that Democrat is really honest, trustworthy and their genuine favorite. They’ll probably tell you that you must pragmatically vote for the Democrat, and abandon your genuine favorite in order to help the Democrat beat the Republican.
Not all methods are like that. With an Approval voting methodology and with ICT there is no such problem. No one ever has any incentive or need to vote someone over their favorite. No one ever has any reason to not give to their favorite(s) the top rating, or the top ranking.
Instant Runoff Voting is Poor Choice
If you haven’t yet voted in Democracy Chronicles’ two presidential polls using Approval and ICT then I invite you to do so. You can find the Approval style Presidential poll in the left column on the front page of Democracy Chronicles but be sure to vote before the poll closes on August 22. You can find the ICT Presidential poll by following the link here.
Instant Runoff Voting imposes a strategic need to bury one’s favorite, and does so considerably more frequently and flagrantly than many other rank methods such as the ordinary Condorcet voting system. What would be the point of working for, and getting, a new voting system, if that system would retain the unnecessary problem possessed by our current Plurality system? Count-fraud and favorite-burial? No thanks.