Instant Runoff (IR) elections are democracy's future.
Most "runoff" elections are separate contests to determine final victors (like "playoffs" in sports), but
Instant Runoff elections are initial contests and runoffs combined.
In IR elections, voters say in advance, on their ballots, who they'll vote for if their top-choice candidates don't make it to a runoff. This lets runoffs proceed "instantly," without additional balloting, eliminating one candidate at a time. The process is efficient and fair, and gives voters the opportunity to choose and rank as many or few candidates as they please.
In an IR election, you rank candidates as you prefer them (1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice, 4th choice, and so on). Voting this way is like deciding on backup choices at a restaurant, in case the kitchen is out of your favorite item(s) on the menu.
IR elections are "one person, one vote" with a key improvement: the vote is transferable when a runoff is needed. The system is often called the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Votes go to 1st choices first. Then, if a runoff is needed, votes can simply be transferred from the eliminated candidate to the top choice still in the race marked on each ballot. (Votes for candidates remaining in the race stay with those candidates.)
The runoff is called "instant" because the ballots have already been cast, and the voters don't need to vote again!
Simple "Vote for One" systems may seem tried-and-true, but in some cases they're tried-and-false. For instance, in 2000 in Florida, Bush was awarded victory with less than a majority of the votes. The result was likely a false reflection of the voters' preferences.
If a majority had been required to win Florida in 2000, a runoff would have been needed. In an IR election, Nader would have been eliminated from the race, and each of his votes would have been transferred to the voter's preference between Gore and Bush, as expressed on the Ranked Voting ballot. At that point (barring a tie), one of the two remaining candidates would have had a majority and would have won.
Other important contests won without majorities include most of the state races in Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential election (when only one state and Washington, D.C., were carried by majority vote) and Alfonse M. D'Amato's election to the Senate from New York in 1980.
For more information on IR elections, see:
Center for Voting and Democracy
Californians for Electoral Reform
California Instant Runoff Voting Coalition
Davis Citizens for Representation
Marin Ranked Voting
Santa Monica Ranked Voting
San Francisco Department of Elections
The British Columbia STV campaign
Ireland proportional representation site
New Zealand STV site
Los Angeles Voters
For Instant Runoff Elections
Let's Improve Our Elections ...
We can have elections that are more fair and let us more fully and freely
preferences when we
VoteFIRE is a countywide civic improvement project.
Our task is
to give people the opportunity to vote on simple city and county
charter amendments that would improve our
future elections by making
them Instant Runoff (IR) elections.
Public officials have begun to endorse having IR elections.
Click here to see how you can help.
There are two main reasons why Instant Runoff elections
are better than what we have now, even if in most cases they would not
change who wins.
1. Instant Runoff elections are more fair than the currently common plurality rule election method ("whoever gets the most votes wins"), which can allow someone to win a single-winner election without majority support. A spoiler candidate or vote-splitting among similar candidates sometimes produces that unfair result.
By requiring a candidate to get a sufficient fraction of votes (a majority in a single-winner election, or a smaller, yet still unbeatable, fraction in a multi-winner election) to win, and by considering the rank order of voters' preferences, Instant Runoff elections protect against spoilers and vote-splitting, and thus provide more fair results.
Despite substantial costs of time and money, some municipalities (including the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District) have a separate "primary" election that chooses two candidates who advance to a "general" election if no candidate gets a majority. Because spoilers and vote-splitting can easily affect a two-winner election if voters only get to "Vote for One," an Instant Runoff would be a much more fair way to select two candidates for a separate final election, if such an election is really desired.
2. Instant Runoff elections let voters more fully and freely express their true preferences among candidates. Instead of just allowing voters to pick one candidate (in a race with one winner), IR election ballots let voters rank candidates in the order they prefer them (1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice, and so on). Because it is highly unlikely that a spoiler candidate or vote-splitting will determine the outcome of a race -- see reason #1, above -- voters have little need to be concerned with strategic voting, and are freed to express the true order of their preferences on the ballot. This can foster innovation within our democracy, and encourage new people to participate and vote, as voters can use top rankings to demonstrate support for candidates who may be unpopular so far but are championing new ideas.
Instant Runoff elections use what's called "Ranked Voting" or "Ranked-Choice Voting."
This means that voters rank candidates as they prefer them (1st choice,
2nd choice, 3rd choice, 4th choice, and so on). Voters record
their rankings on the ballot when they vote.
This voting system is often called "Instant Runoff Voting" (IRV) in single-winner elections, or "Choice Voting" in multi-winner elections.
(Single-winner elections fill unique
positions, such as City Councilmember from the
7th District. Multi-winner
elections fill several equivalent positions. Burbank, for
example, does not have city council districts, and holds multi-winner
elections to fill several council seats at a time.)
Ranked Voting, Ranked-Choice Voting, Choice Voting and IRV are all
names for the modern voting system used in Instant Runoff
elections. The Instant Runoff election system, including voting and counting, is known worldwide as the system of the Single Transferable Vote.
No matter what you call it, it's "easy as 1-2-3!"
Current Actions FOR YOU TO DO
(If you live in Los Angeles County)
1. Sign up for the L.A. VoteFIRE email list, if you're not on it yet.
2A. Get endorsements! Please take this endorsement form
to public officials in Los Angeles County.
2B. Endorse! If you are a public official,
please sign this endorsement form.
Send signed endorsement forms to
L.A. VoteFIRE, 1255 Federal Ave. #304, Los Angeles, CA 90025, or fax to (310) 496-3073.
Click here for the current endorsements page.