How It Works: Run-Off Voting (Yes, This Will Be On The Midterms … Well, Some of Them)
Let’s say you live next door to an ice cream shop that unfortunately, is only open one day per year. Also, they sell two flavors: the utterly repellent rum raisin* or vanilla. Very occasionally, the glacier will offer third flavor, but there are rules: 1) it half-price and you get twice as much, 2) you don’t get to know what the flavor is before you buy it, 3) it is made in a shop where allergens are present 4) you have a major food allergy 5) you have to eat all of whatever you purchase.
So, what are you going to buy? Remember, it’ll be a whole year before you get to make this decision again. Will you pick: something you know you’ll dislike, something boring, or a long shot that could possibly kill you? Would you be more likely to try the long shot if you could be assured it is allergen-free and you could trade it for vanilla if you didn’t like it?
What do hypothetical once-per-year ice cream shop decisions and elections have in common? Think about the last few times you voted. How did you make your decision? Did you vote your first choice: the non-objectionable candidate with good odds? Did you cast a vote for a candidate that primarily served as a vote against another candidate?
Voting should be relatively simple: research your options and vote for the candidate who you think will best represent you. But, we all know it’s not that simple. If you’re anything like me, the voting booth often feels more like a chess match in which you are running more if/then scenarios than you would in a year-long Dungeons and Dragons campaign. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. There’s a way to vote for your first choice first and also vote for a “safety” option. There’s a way to try the new flavor and still get vanilla rather than nothing at all.
It’s called instant run-off voting (IRV to those in the know, and it’s also sometimes called rank choice); it’s already in use in at least 10 countries around the world and in 6 cities in the U.S. It maximizes the likelihood of maximum number of voters getting their first-choice candidate. (NB: There’s another kind of run-off voting called Condorcet Voting but it’s far less common.)
Here’s how IRV works:
Wanna know? You’ll have to click over to read the full article.