Instant Runoff Voting Pros and Cons


What happens when multiple candidates are campaigning for a single elected position? A primary is usually held to select the two best candidates [plus any third party or independent candidates] before an official ballot is run. Instead of a traditional runoff election like this, many communities are turning to an instant runoff format.

Is this right for your community? Here are some pros and cons of instant runoff voting to consider today.

What Are the Pros of IRV?

1. It is generally cheaper than other election methods.
Only one election needs to be held for an IRV process. If no majority is received, then the last place candidate is dropped and those first choice votes are then turned into second choice votes. It requires less time and fewer resources to complete.

2. It provides a better overview of what voters really want.
Maybe not all voters get their first-choice candidate, but they still at least have a vote in the final outcome. Instead of choosing who they think is the lesser of “two evils,” they can rank all of the politicians on the ballot instead.

3. It provides more consensus.
Part of the gridlock in modern politics is that there are two general parties who don’t usually budge from their positions. IRV creates an environment where people are forced to consider alternatives. Eventually this perspective trickles down to the politicians as well.

What Are the Cons of IRV?

1. Most people don’t actually understand the process.
Because most people are used to voting only for their preferred candidate, this is what they generally do even in an IRV election. If that person’s candidate finishes in last place without a majority, then their vote gets thrown out.

2. It could be illegal.
Not every community will even allow instant runoff voting. They require a clear majority from the voters against one other candidate or an uncontested election. The IRV format doesn’t always provide for this.

3. It doesn’t change the number of counts.
IRV might save money on the total number of elections that must be held, but it doesn’t save money on the number of counts required.

The pros and cons of instant runoff voting show that it could be beneficial, but it may require some communities to change their voting process. Could it show a better plurality than traditional runoff elections? That depends on how a second choice vote is tallied under current laws.