For the past eight years, Republican leaders in Washington have made a practice of ending every speech with their campaign slogan: “A better future.” But what does this phrase truly mean? It is not enough to just say you want to build a better future for America.
You need to explain in detail how you will accomplish this task. The GOP has spent the past several months discussing ways of overhauling the American political system, and one common suggestion has been for Americans to adopt a new voting system called Instant Run-off Voting or IRV.
This method allows voters to rank candidates on their ballot instead of electing one candidate by default. Because this would be a major change and reform, we must explore alternatives to IRV so we can get the best possible system for our country.
Why should we change our voting system?
The American political system has always been criticized as poorly designed; some people even go so far as to call it a “failed system”. But the truth is, over the past 150 years it has only ever undergone two major changes.
The first, in the early 20th century, was a concerted effort to drastically overhaul the way Americans cast their votes. The second change came in the 1960s, which was a sweeping reform effort aimed at modernizing the American electoral system, and yet today virtually nothing has been done to modernize our voting system.
There are numerous problems with the way we vote in America, and most experts believe they are only going to get worse in the coming years as our voting population continues to grow.
Instant Run-off Voting (IRV)
Currently, if you vote for multiple candidates on your ballot, your vote is tallied for your top-ranked choice, and then all the votes for that candidate are aggregated together and added to the totals for the second-ranked choice, and then the process is repeated until one candidate receives a majority of votes.
This process is called “plurality” voting, and it is what happens every single time a candidate does not receive an outright majority of votes. However, if you change the way voters vote, you can change the outcome of an election. Instead of voting for one specific candidate, voters could “thumbs-up” all their favorite candidates on the ballot and then simply rank the candidates in order of preference.
If no candidate receives a majority of votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and that person’s votes are transferred to the remaining candidates based on the ballots of their supporters. This process is called “runoff voting,” and it is what happens every single time an outright majority candidate does not receive a majority of votes.
Single Transferable Vote (STV)
STV is a multi-seat voting method that simulates single-member districts in local elections. There are usually between three and six seats in a single-member district, and the winning candidate is determined by whichever candidate receives 50% + 1 of the vote.
The remaining seats are allocated among the candidates in order with the most votes tabulated for the last seat. If you used the same “thumbs-up” voting method as IRV to elect representatives, the system would work like this: there would be three seats in a single-member district.
All candidates would be ranked, and the highest-ranked candidate would be elected in the first round with 50% of the vote. If no candidate received a majority in the first round, the second-ranked candidate would win in the next round with the remaining votes going to their supporters. The process would continue until all six seats in the district were filled.
Proposal: Modified Ranked Choice Voting (MRCV)
To solve the “splitting of party votes” problem caused by IRV, MRCV allows voters to rank candidates from most to least preferred. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round, the candidate with the fewest total votes is eliminated, and their votes are transferred to the remaining candidates based on the ballots of their supporters.
This process is called “modified runoff voting,” and it is what happens every single time an outright majority candidate does not receive a majority of votes.