Sunday, February 21, 2016

We Still Need IRV

It's an astonishing thing really. Every time which I firmly believe to be satire, it turns out to be a bloody prophecy instead. In this case I'm thinking of a satirical bit I wrote back in July, 2015 called Vote for Donald! In it I point out that "over 60% of people responding to polls have indicated that they would not vote for Trump for President under any circumstances whatsoever."[1]

That actually held true in yesterday's Republican primary in South Carolina. Look at the numbers as supplied by the Associated Press this morning:

There it is, in black-and-white... 67.5% of South Carolinians voting in the primary would rather have someone other than Trump. By any measure... and it's not even close... he's not preferred by the majority.

And yet he "won".

This leads once again to my every-four-year rant regarding plurality voting.

Plurality voting is the system we currently have whereby the candidate with the most votes wins. As you can see for yourself, it's not necessarily the candidate with the most support. It is obvious that it is possible for a population to be stuck with the "leadership" of a candidate that most of them strongly oppose. All that's needed is for the opposition to be split.

This sort of result is what we get when we have a system that presupposes the participation of only two candidates. We get a two-party system which actively works to marginalize alternatives, no matter how broadly their ideas are accepted. This same two-party system opposes the sort of reform that would bring meaningful, beneficial change to politics. And within a party it is possible to "game" the system by encouraging "spoilers" to participate. The people who best illustrate the need for reform are the ones most likely to impede it, as they are not only the same ones who benefit the most from the current system, but the ones most empowered to perpetuate it.

What's needed to combat gaming the system is a system where the  issues actually matter in the voting process. The solution is Instant Run-off (or "Ranked Choice") voting.

Of course, you are free to remain in an unfair system if you so choose. Perhaps you benefit from it yourself. But I think that if most people knew of a viable alternative, they'd change the system as have the people of Australia, Ireland, London, New Zealand, and a number of municipalities in the United States. So each election I follow up my rant with a letter-writing campaign.

Here's a slideshow explanation, using Muppets. Click or use your arrow keys to navigate the slides. If you go full-screen, then pressing Esc will restore you to the blog:

Instant run-off voting encourages voters and candidates to focus on issues, not ad hominem. Furthermore, this breaks the two-party stranglehold on election politics, as voters are empowered to vote honestly, knowing that their vote is not "wasted" should their preferred candidate not win. This is a strong encouragement of third-party participation and increased diversity.

You might not get your favorite candidate, but under this system the voters will always elect a candidate that the maximum number of citizens can best live with.


I linked to this video yesterday before the votes were tallied, and I'll do it again now:

Here's another video that illustrates it, perhaps a little more clearly:

[1] A clueless commentator (CC) rather rudely pointed out that over 77% of those who voted yesterday said they didn't want Rubio or Cruz, and that over 92% didn't want Bush. He therefore declares the entire concept pointless. Of course, his general demeanor and lack of grammar and civility indicates that he's not in the habit of expending much thought about such things. The ideal Trump supporter. I suggested he might want to try actually testing the theory instead instead of summarily declaring it pointless.

For my part, I consider it tested. As I mentioned above, polls have already been taken that indicate Trump a least favorite candidate among all voters. The same poll indicated he could pull out a win in a three-way race. Thus far nothing has disproved the accuracy of these numbers. Cruz supporters do not flock to Trump when Cruz is removed from the race. And name-calling the candidates doesn't prove a point.

That a clueless Trump supporter who happened to have benefitted from a broken system continues to support that system merely proves that my point is anything but pointless. He couldn't have illustrated the need for Instant Run-off voting better had he actually tried.

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