[EM] Why I think IRV isn't a serious alternative 2

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sun Dec 28 12:40:38 PST 2008

At 01:55 PM 12/27/2008, Aaron Armitage wrote:

>   And of course, because there is (at least, as yet)
> > no great public campaign for Condorcet or one that looks as
> > if it might
> > make real progress, you have not had to face the forces
> > opposed to reform of your voting systems.  To see who they
> > are and how
> > effective their dirty tracks will be, just look at how they
> > got rid of STV-PR from all the US cities bar one in the
> > 1930s and 1940s.

Or look at the history of Bucklin.

The reform that had the greatest penetration and persistence is 
top-two runoff. And it is now being threatened by -- and in a few 
places replaced by -- Instant Runoff Voting. Top Two Runoff, it 
appears, is far more likely to give a minor party candidate a chance 
at winning. Le Pen got his chance in France! If he'd had a position 
with possible deep support, he could have won. The same with David 
Duke in the U.S. Both of these made it to a runoff by edging out what 
was probably the Condorcet winner.

It's less likely with IRV, but still possible; but, in any case, in 
nonpartisan elections, where voting patterns aren't so strongly 
connected with party support, we know that Top Two Runoff does result 
in "comeback elections," whereas, in that environment, IRV almost 
never does, almost always preserves the Plurality preference order.

Proponents of IRV mostly have in mind situations where there are two 
strong candidates, and nobody else within reach of winning, and so 
the small-scale spoiler effect that IRV does address looms large in 
their mind. But when there are three, or a single frontrunner with 
two coming up, and the total "core support" for the two being more 
than a majority, IRV becomes very, very quirky. As Yee diagrams show, 
when there are four moderately strong candidates, IRV becomes quite chaotic.

>IRV is equally vulnerable. Fear of change and a misunderstanding of
>one-person-one-vote work against us both (although I don't know if
>one-person-one-vote is treated as a quasi-Constitutional principle in the

Yes. However, with Bucklin in particular, the issue was examined in 
the U.S. long ago, and only the idiosyncratic decision of Brown v. 
Smallwood in Minnesota found a violation, and, reading the actual 
decision in lieu of FairVote propaganda about it, this finding was 
against all forms of alternative vote, not only Later-No-Harm forms.

My impression, from the actual history of Bucklin, so far as I have 
been able to find it, is that Bucklin was very popular here, there 
was fairly strong objection in Duluth to the Minnesota decision. But 
to challenge it would have taken a constitutional amendment there, 
probably, and it's hard enough to get voting reform through a 
majority on a local scale, much more a state-wide constitutional decision.

Because of its superficial resemblance to runoff voting, IRV more 
easily bypasses the one-person, one-vote objection. Nobody thinks of 
voters has getting two votes because they can vote in the primary and 
in the runoff. However, *they do* get up to two votes! California 
ruled incorrectly in deciding that the runoff was part of the 
original election. It's a separate election, with a distinct 
electorate and unconnected votes, usually, and the only difference, 
under California constitutional rules, is that being named on the 
ballot requires being one of the top two candidates in the primary. 
Just as the total vote in the primary has become moot, so too have 
the write-ins there.

But nobody was minding the democracy store, nobody seems to have 
noticed that democracy lost a battle there. That's not unusual!

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