Instant runoff voting

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Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is an electoral system in which electors rank order their candidate preferences from highest to lowest. The first choice is 1, second choice 2 and so on for all candidates that individuals wish to cast a vote for at all.

Under IRV, a simple majority is required for an individual candidate to win the election. If there is no majority winner after tallying all first-choice votes, then an 'instant' runoff is held: the lowest-polling candidate is eliminated and that candidate's votes are re-allocated to the remaining candidates according to the next preference of each individual voter as indicated on their ballot. If this reallocation "runoff" results in a majority winner, the election is over; otherwise, the 'runoffs' continue until there is a majority winner.

Under IRV, if your number one choice is defeated by receiving the fewest votes in one round, then the next roud of voting your vote changes to your second choice, and so on. Simple ranking is open to strategic voting, as is IRV if a third party becomes viable.

More information about this topic is available at the article on Wikipedia about Instant-runoff voting

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Some people mistakenly perceive instant runoff voting a form of proportional representation because in some instances it reduces the bias against third parties found in the traditional voting system, known as the spoiler effect. This is true when a third party has enough support to come second in some districts, where it may pick up the votes of the major party it defeated and win the seat. This happens rarely, however, and in some ways IRV reinforces two-party rule by ensuring that votes cannot remain with minor parties. It can, however, increase the bargaining power of minor parties, as major parties vie to secure their "preferences" on how-to-vote cards and party platforms. In reality IRV is not a form of proportional representation because such a system must reward parties with shares of legisltive seats approxiimately equal to their shares of the vote in legislative elections.

Instant Runoff Voting goes by the term "Preferential Voting" in Australia, where it is widely used. (See the Australian experience here.) Australia was also the origin of the now almost universal secret pre-printed ballot.

In the U.S., IRV is generally supported in states with a significant "flanking" third party to the dominant two parties, often by the major party that consistently loses elections to a flank challenge. Thus Alaska - which often has challenges to the libertarian right of the Republicans - and Vermont - which often has localist Progressive challenges to the left of the Democrats - have significant IRV support from a major party.

IRV has become a "meme" voting reform among the progressive left and Libertarian right, to overcome the lack of participation and other dysfunctions of "winner-take-all" Single-Member District/Plurality or Single Member District/Majority (delayed second round run-off) electoral systems.

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