Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Friday, August 12, 2005

IRV moves forward in Tacoma

Citizens for Instant Runoff Voting - Tacoma held a public forum at UW-Tacoma yesterday to promote Proposition 1, an initiative to provide for election of non-partisan candidates by order of preference. For an explanation how IRV works see IRV - Wikipedia.

IRV has received a lot of attention from left leaning groups such as the League of Women Voters and other grass roots organizations around the country. And in non-partisan races IRV makes a lot of sense.

However, the Libertarian Party should be wary of IRV in a partisan arena. Most supporters of IRV assume that minor party candidates are preferred by many voters who perceive (rightly or wrongly) that the minor party candidate has little chance of winning. Consequently, goes the logic, many voters choose a less preferred candidate but one with a chance of winning; see, e.g., wasted vote. While this is theoretically possible I am aware of no polling or other empirical evidence that it is true. (And if any readers of this blog know of any such evidence I want to hear about it!)

And what if this premise isn't true? What if most voters still prefer "D" or "R" candidates over minor party candidates? Then the minor party candidates are eliminated in the first or second round of counting and the "D" and "R" candidates can claim not merely a plurality of support but an outright majority of support (i.e., a mandate). Worse still, minor party candidates lose the "balance of power" factor, the ability to gather enough votes to swing the election.

In a partisan arena IRV probably does more damage to minor parties than good. In my view proportional representation makes far more sense.


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