Alliance for Democracy

What is IRV?

Campaign Finance Reform | Fusion Voting | Instant Runoff Voting |National Popular Vote

In most American elections, the voter chooses a single candidate for a particular office and votes for that candidate. Whichever candidate receives the most votes wins the election and assumes office. This is called plurality voting. Plurality winners can assume office with less than a majority vote. Depending on the number of candidates, winners could have as little as 20% of the vote, or even less!

In order to assure that, at least in some races, the candidate assuming office will be preferred by the majority of voters, a second election, a runoff, is held. This runoff election pits the top two voter-getters from the primary election against each other and the winner is the candidate with a majority of votes in the runoff.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is an alternative to plurality elections. IRV allows the ranking of candidates in order of the voter’s preference. Instead of the voter marking the ballot for a single candidate for a particular office, the voter ranks the candidates, #1 and #2 and #3 in order of their preference. Of course, the voter can vote for just a single candidate as with plurality voting but IRV allows people to say, “I like Joe best but if Joe is not elected, I would settle for Betty. Joe #1; Betty #2. And I also like Dwayne and I will rank him #3.”

IRV produces elections with a majority winner in a single round of voting instead of minority winner or the use of an expensive second “runoff” election. IRV allows voters to vote for their favorite candidate without worry that their least favorite candidate will win instead. With IRV there are no “spoiler” candidates.

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