What is Ranked Choice Voting? Score Voting? List Voting? And how do these election structures differ from the current winner-take-all, first-past-the-post voting system?
In this presentation hosted by the League of Women Voters of Portland, Sightline senior researcher Kristin Eberhard explores the way we vote and highlights alternative voting systems in Cascadia and beyond. Examples from the recent US election include Benton County, Oregon, and the state of Maine passing Ranked Choice Voting, a voting system that eliminates the spoiler effect, makes campaigns more positive, and elects candidates who earn true majority support.
This past US election displayed the perils of plurality voting. Cascadia can lead the way and spur a national transition to voting systems that engage more people, better reflect the American electorate, and guarantee democratic results. Find out how below:
Want more? Watch Is There a Better Way to Vote? Part 2 and Part 3 where speakers discuss how alternative voting methods better represent minorities and youth, and review Oregon’s attempts at voter reform.
Brava. Our reliance on 17th Century voting methods is killing us, just as surely as if we still relied on 17th Century medical methods.
Since 2003, I have analyzed RCV (IRV) because of its OBVIOUS good features, such as:
Allowing the voter to officially express her truly preferred candidate; but still have her vote cast and counted for another candidate who has a better chance of winning! Wow!
But the negative is — doing the manipulation of the ballots (paper) or the votes (digital) are highly subject to corruption. (A BLACK WOW.)
> the state of Maine passing Ranked Choice Voting, a voting system that eliminates the spoiler effect
This is a myth. For instance, see the 2009 IRV mayoral race in Burlington, VT. There was a group of Republican voters who were punished by ranking the Republican in first place. They would have gotten a better outcome if they insincerely bumped their second choice (the Democrat) up to the first ranking. That would have caused the Democrat to win instead of the Progressive (their third choice). This is noteworthy. There are systems that make it impossible to hurt yourself by giving the top preference to your favorite candidate: namely Score Voting and Approval Voting.
Here’s a simple demonstration of how this happens, by Andrew Jennings, a co-founder of the Center for Election Science who did his math PhD thesis on voting methods.
> elects candidates who earn true majority support.
The Progressive won that Burlington IRV election even though a sizable majority of voters preferred the Democrat to the Progressive. It’s even possible for this to happen if a majority-preferred candidate got more first-place votes than the winner!
The analysis by Ms. Eberhard in that video is similarly brutally inaccurate, and I address some of it in the comments of the Youtube video.
IRV _does not_ allow you to to safely support your favorite candidate and still have your vote count for your second choice. See this simple demonstration by Andrew Jennings, a co-founder of the Center for Election Science who did his math PhD thesis on voting methods.
For instance, in the 2009 IRV mayoral race in Burlington, VT, a group of Republicans had their second choice votes for the Democrat completely ignored, as the Democrat was eliminated before the Republican. This caused the Democrat to lose even though he was preferred by sizable head-to-head majorities against both the Republican _and_ the Progressive.
It’s noteworthy that IRV is so complicated that you could have missed this basic fact despite having studied the issue since 2003 as you claim.
Approval Voting may seem to fix some voting issues, but not really all that more than Instant Run-Off. Both Approval Voting and Instant Run-Off – just like regular plurality voting – have the situation where your choice of who your first vote is for may lead to your worst option winning. This is the nature of the system that drives people to vote strategically. And Approval Voting has a bigger problem than any Ranked Choice voting system in this regard. Because in Approval Voting every single additional vote you cast adds to the chances that your #1 choice will not be elected. This is a problem that will lead – and has led – a lot of Approval Voting to just devolve right back to Plurality Voting.
Yes, Instant Run-Off Voting still has problems. Like most voting systems. But any Ranked Choice Voting system is better than any other voting option like plurality, scoring, or approval.
FairVote organization has a much longer discussion of the issues with Approval Voting for those that want to research it more. Check out their site on how instant runoff voting compares to alternate reforms, especially their discussion of monotonicity issue.
It is true that people speaking about these voting systems should not ignore options—they should mention options that exist—when time allows. But just because Eberhard doesn’t mention Approval voting every time she talks about election reform does not mean she doesn’t know about it and understand its advantages – and major disadvantages.
Instant Run-Off is a good choice to fight for. Because it is way better than Plurality Voting, way better than score voting, and better than Approval Voting. But also because once you have Instant Run-Off voting – with the voters all used to listing their choices in order – it’s an easy transition to even better election systems such as Proportional systems or Condorcet systems—and that, in my opinion, should be our real ultimate goal.
Instant Run-Off has no value whatsoever. This was proven outright in Australia, which has used it for its lower house for many many decades. It doesn’t change ANYTHING. It certainly doesn’t make it easier to go to proportional or Condorcet, since Australia hasn’t.
Approval voting really really does change things when it’s tried. I’ve done it in clubs. Changes everything.
For a first step, approval voting should be used for *handling parliamentary business* and for *referenda* — it eliminates amendment-reordering shenanigans (list all the possible combinations of amendments, vote for all the ones you approve of), and in three-option referenda like Puerto Rico’s (state – territory – independent), it gives a true sense of which option is most popular.
Thank you Kristin Grenfell Eberhard. Your presentation is both thoughtful and thorough. Very good and very clear. I love the fact that you mentioned the very good New Zealand example.
It’s one of those subjects that is normally inherently abstract and a bit dull, AND extremely important. You make it both interesting and relevant.
I hope many of us in Washington, Oregon and California will watch this. Why? Because if we were to change our legislatures to a proportional voting system (my favorite is MMP) via state changes in laws, or constitutional amendments, the entire country would begin to wake up to these crucial democratic features in state governments. AND that could lead the way for their adoption by the national government, which would be a huge leap towards a democratic America.
How can we accomplish that in these three states?
If using the IRV system, and presuming that each county collects the ballots from their voters, and where the geography of the candidacy (such as a Legislative post that spans several counties) — requires combining the several counties — how are the ballots/votes managed to do the necessary combine?
Good point. With the current system each voting precinct only needs to send in the totals for each candidate, but RCV/IRV ballots contain a lot more information. It might be possible to provide a count of identical ballots, but there could be hundreds if not thousands of (nearly) unique ballots (1-10 votes) when there are many candidates and most voters know little about their last choices.