The DC Institute for Policy Studies came to speak at a Dennis Kucinich/Green Party information session a few months back, and that's where I first got an explanation of the term IRV (Instant Runoff Voting). It's a wicked-cool concept that purports to remove the 'spoiler' effect of any 3rd party candidates - as best I can tell, it does. I'll give you my very inexact explanation of how it works:
- If there are four candidates running for President, you can vote for your favorite candidate as your first choice, your second-favorite candidate as your second choice, and so on.
- After all the first-choice votes are tallied, if your first choice candidate fails to receive a certain percentage of the vote, then your second choice candidate will be used.
- If your second choice candidate fails to receive a certain percentage, then your third choice candidate will be used, if you chose to vote for a third candidate.
- If you choose to not vote for a particular candidate at all, then you can do so (or not do so). This means you will never cast a vote for George Bush, for instance, either directly or indirectly!
OK, if you're not too confuzed by this confuzing explanation, consider the impact. I could vote for Ralph Nader for President first, then vote for John Kerry as a second choice, and never choose to vote for George Bush. This means, in effect, that it will be impossible for Nader to 'steal' a Dem vote, thus rewarding Bush the Presidency via a split vote. How cool is that?!
Of course, tallying the votes is more complicated, but isn't it worth the effort? I think voter participation would skyrocket if we did something like this. Many municipalities and even some states (I think) use IRV to great effect already. There are several organizations who have been working to make IRV a reality - I don't know which one is most prominent, but here are a few:
- The DC Institute for Policy Studies
- The Center for Voting and Democracy
- Instant Runoff Project
- InstantRunoff.com by the Midwest Democracy Center
- Coalition for Instant Runoff Voting in Washington (State)
This blog has a very simple example of how an IRV might look. Here is a very cool interactive Flash animation of IRV that uses the Florida 2000 debacle as an example of votes cast.
Whoops. Here is some stuff that makes IRV only look good until one of the minor parties becomes threatening as a not-so-minor party. Plus, more election methods?! The American people are too stupid to figure out 2+2! More methods?! Yarrrrgh! Well, we should check out all available options.