Instant Runoff (IRV) voting system (Executive summary)

  1. Score voting is simpler than IRV.
  2. Score voting is more expressive than IRV.
  3. Score voting works on every voting machine in the USA, including noncomputerized ones, right now, without modification and without reprogramming. But IRV cannot be made to work on many kinds of voting machines. When San Francisco adopted IRV it screwed up and was unable to announce all nontrivial election results, supposedly for weeks; and now may have to abandon its counting machines entirely.
  4. Adopting IRV will cause voter errors ("spoiled" ballots) to become 7 times more frequent (based on San Francisco numbers). But adopting score voting appears to decrease errors.
  5. Score voting is monotonic, i.e. increasing your vote for somebody can help but cannot hurt them. IRV is not monotonic.
  6. In score voting, scoring your favorite candidate top cannot hurt either you or him. In IRV, it can hurt you.
  7. With IRV the "Nader spoiler" and "wasted vote" problems are not solved, contrary to pro-IRV-propaganda. Indeed, because of fear of these very effects (or for whatever reason), IRV voters tend to rank third-party candidates below top (even if favorite) and hence prevent their election, which presumably is why every IRV country is and always has become 2-party-dominated. For this reason IRV cannot attract support from intelligent third-party members.
  8. IRV makes ties and other nightmare-scenarios much more likely; Score voting makes them much less likely.
  9. IRV is historically more likely than score voting merely to lead to a backslide to plurality voting.
  10. IRV will (in plausible scenarios) elect candidate X in preference to candidate Y, even though based on the IRV ballots themselves, Y is pairwise-preferred over X (and over everybody else too) by an arbitrarily-huge supermajority of the voters. This happened in the Burlington 2009 mayoral election and appears to have happened in both the Peru 2006 presidential election (but less dramatically; merely a "55% majority" rather than a "huge supermajority" was thwarted) and the Chile 1970 presidential election (this time with about a 2:1 ratio supermajority being thwarted). Probably this fiasco had something to do with why Burlington repealed IRV.
  11. See also our reports on the Ireland 1990 and Australia 2007 IRV elections and their pathologies. These were some of the most important IRV elections ever.
  12. Raising your most-hated candidate in your IRV vote from bottom to top-ranked can actually improve the election winner (in your view)!
  13. IRV must be counted centrally and cannot be counted in precincts, there is no longer such a thing as a precinct "subtotal." This can decrease election transparency and raise the risk of a centrally organized fraud.
  14. Score voting is less complicated than IRV, both for the vote-counters, and also for the voter in the sense that experimental timings show voters score candidates faster than they rank-order them.
  15. Poll evidence indicates score voting also is more popular than IRV with real voters. Indeed, the most experienced IRV-using country by far, Australia, wishes it could get rid of IRV so much, that they'd actually go back to plain plurality voting (by large margins in 3 polls) if offered that choice in a referendum; also IRV was rejected by massive 68-32 margin in favor of plain plurality in a 2011 nationwide referendum in the UK; meanwhile poll evidence from France indicates voters would, if given the choice in a referendum, switch to score voting right now (and they prefer it over approval voting too).
  16. Score voting is better than IRV measured using Bayesian regret yardstick in computer simulations.
  17. IRV exhibits an artifical bias favoring electing extremist candidates and against centrists. In contrast approval can have pro-centrist bias, and with score voting there is little or no bias favoring either.
  18. Contrary to pro-IRV-propaganda, pathological IRV elections seem unpleasantly common in practice. (Theory: Pathology Survey. Real-world: e.g. see our surveys of the Louisiana governor and Australia House 2007 elections.) Two of the last five Debian elections would have exhibited pathologies had they been held using IRV. Here's a horrible multi-pathology example election.

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