Replace Runoff Elections

Problem: Some jurisdictions in the United States already have a majority system instead of using plurality elections; however, they typically seek to uphold majority rule through a two round runoff, an approach that has downsides. First, holding a second election can nearly double the election administration costs funded by taxpayers. A second election also means candidates must raise more money in order to compete, thereby increasing the influence of money in politics.

Additionally, the races that go to a runoff often have significantly lower turnout in the decisive runoff election or have lower turnout in the first round depending on what other elections are on the ballot. Furthermore, reducing a large field to two candidates after tallying only first choices can eliminate a strong candidate.

Solution: Under instant runoff voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference on a single ballot. If more that two candidates receive votes, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated. Voters who ranked the eliminated candidate first now have their ballots added to the totals of their second choice candidate. This process continues until two candidates remain, at which point the candidate with a majority of votes is declared the winner.. (Some jurisdictions end the tally  as soon as one candidates has a majority of votes at the end of a round of counting, as this candidate cannot be defeated.)

With a traditional runoff system, a voter whose favorite candidate does not advance to the runoff essentially is able to express his or her next choice among the runoff candidates. IRV offers this same opportunity in a single election with a ranked ballot because voters are able to express their second (or third, etc.) choices in one trip to the polls. Governments, and therefore taxpayers, save money through reduced election administration costs. Candidates do not need to raise as much money as before in order to be competitive.

As one example, San Francisco implemented IRV in November 2004 to replace runoff elections and has avoided the cost of a second election in nearly every November since that time, saving more than 10 million dollars.