IRV as a stepping stone [WAS: Re: [EM] Sunday reply to Bill Lewis Clark]

Bill Lewis Clark wclark at
Tue Jan 20 07:55:02 PST 2004

Richard Moore wrote:

> I disagree -- IRV would make a poor stepping stone.

> [Discussion of IRV's technical shortcomings snipped.]

> Passing IRV only seems likely if it is sold on the false advertising
> claim that it fixes the spoiler problem.

IRV is a winnable candidate for election reform, and like many winnable
candidates its supporters make some false promises.  I'd rather have some
form of Condorcet, Range Voting or Approval -- but they're not serious
contenders at the moment.

Whenever I introduce people to alternative voting systems, I always make
sure to mention Condorcet -- but I usually point them to the Fairvote
website, because it seems to me that IRV advocates do a *MUCH* better job
of educating the public than Condorcet supporters do.  IMHO, Condorcet
supporters seem a lot more interested in attacking IRV, than they do
helping out with any serious election reform.

> So 5 years after IRV is passed, if a better solution is proposed, the
> public will very likely be divided into two major camps. The first
> camp will say, "IRV was supposed to fix the spoiler problem, but look
> how it failed. How can we trust this new-fangled system to be any
> better?" The second camp will say, "Why do we need a new system? We
> fixed the spoiler problem 5 years ago!"

That's a problem, but I think a far less serious one than the problem of
inertia.  You're leaving out a third camp -- which I think would be bigger
than the other two -- who will say "Now that we have a better
understanding of how different voting systems work, let's try to figure
out which one is best!"  That is, after all, how many people who had
previously supported IRV eventually became interested in Condorcet in the
first place.

IRV may be a flawed system, but IRV supporters are not the enemy.  They
*should* be treated like allies.

-Bill Clark

Dennis Kucinich for President in 2004

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