Looking Under the Hood Fundamental change to something as important as the way we vote requires some study. Changes aren't always for the better and can really muck up the works if done without care. FairElect-Tucson is proposing fundamental changes to our election system. We expect scrutiny in this process.
So, Let's Look Under IRV's the Hood
An Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) or Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) System is a method of allowing voters to rank their choices in an election. This allows voters to actually record their values without strategic concern for the ultimate outcome of the election. When you vote in on a ranked ballot, you vote for every candidate in the order you prefer. If your favorite candidate has little chance of success, then your subsequent votes will be recorded and the winner of the election (as well as those eliminated) know where their votes came from and where they might have gone.
How Does IRV Work?
When you come to vote in an election using an Instant Runoff System you'll recieve a ballot that lists all candidates of any office just like any election you've voted in before. The difference comes when you come to an office with three or more candidates. Here you'll see a table that alows you to vote for all candidates in the order of your preference. The voting part is really quite simple and has proven to be easily understood by any group eligable to vote. That includes young, old, rich, poor, well educated or not.
Once your ballot and those of others are processed after the polls close, your initial votes are tallied. If, at that point, a race has no majority winner, then an Instant Runoff is conducted.
The first thing that happens is that all candidates that have no chance of winning the election are eliminated. Then the next valid voter choice is awarded to the proper candidate. This process continues until all remaining candidates have a mathematical chance of winning the election.
If at that point there is still no majority winner, then the candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and those ballots are awarded to the next valid choice recorded. This continues until there is a clear majority winner.
A majority is defined as 50% +1 votes available. Since the ranked choice is available but not required, it is likely that some voters may no rank their choices or might not rank all candidates. That's a valid expresion of the voter's values. This requires that a majority is defined using availible valid votes.
Problems and Solutions
Tucson, specifically, and Arizona, in general, use a "Most Votes" system to declare elections. That means that if there are more than two candidates, there is a real possibility that a non-majority candidate may be elected. Historically, that is how a good deal of elections are decided. That means a minority hold power over the majority.
Thus, the ideal of majority rule is not mandated in our elections. We rule by plurality.
IRV allows us to encourage many voices into our election process without the problem of spoiling the chance of majority rule.