Ranked Choice vs Approval Voting

Ranked Choice vs Approval Voting

Ranked Choice is Really Rank—as in, it stinks!!!

Recently a few special interest groups have been promoting something called Ranked choice voting, it’s also known by some other names, in America it’s traditionally called Instant Runoff Voting (in some European countries it’s called Single Transferable Vote). This is being promoted as “election-reform”. The promoters say that taxpayers will save money by eliminating a run-off election when no candidate took more than 50% of the vote. Usually true, but that's not why they're promoting it. While it can be argued that RCV/IRV has limited advantages over what we use now (called plurality voting); it’s actually worse, and here’s why:

Here's how RCV/IRV works (from Wikipedia):

Instant-runoff voting (IRV) (also known as the Alternative Vote and by several other names) is an electoral system used for single winner elections in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. In an IRV election, if no candidate receives an overall majority of first preferences the candidates with fewest votes are eliminated one by one, and their votes transferred according to their second and third preferences (and so on), until one candidate achieves a majority.”

If you read that carefully, you may have already caught one or two of RCV/IRVs problems:

  1. One of the worst problems in American politics is the well known lesser-of-two-evils problem. This is when the final election is between two extremest candidates from, seemingly, opposing positions; it’s caused by the type of election system we use, called “plurality” voting. We do not have a two-party system; the existence of two major parties is a side-effect of two arbitrary rules of most first-past-the-post voting systems, like plurality: One is that you can only pick, or approve of, one candidate—no matter how many candidates you’d be ok with. Another arbitrary rule (in many locations) is that the winner must receive more than 50% of the vote. These rules are what causes the lesser-of-two-evils problem. RCV/IRV keeps the lesser-of-two-evils problem—because it has both of these same problems:

    • Your single transferable vote must go to one, and only one candidate. You can't say, “I’m OK with these three, but not the rest.”
    • A candidate needs to get over 50% of those single votes to win—so, RCV/IRV is another first-past-the-post voting system.
  2. It uses the least informed, fringe voters, to change the results! Each round of counting, the candidate who received the fewest first-place votes gets eliminated. Those are fringe voters who support the communist party, prohibition party, guns and dope Party, Pirate Party, and other unrealistic, fake, or write-in candidates. These fringe groups are given the highest-priority to redirect the vote count while trying to get some candidate past the 50% mark. These are the last people that you want steering the elections—yet RCV/IRV gives them priority.

  • RCV/IRV does nothing to elect a candidate that more voters will like! There are voting systems that do, Approval Voting does this very well, another good method is Condorcet (pronounced kon-dor-say), but Approval Voting is much easier to tally than Condorcet.
  • RCV/IRV discourages voter participation, the time involved in deciding rankings leads voters to single-punch rather than rank.
  • RCV/IRV does nothing about accuracy.
  • RCV/IRV does not prevent ties.
  • RCV/IRV does nothing to help the lesser-of-two-evils problem! In fact, RCV/IRV makes the lesser-of-two-evils problem worse! Because, it moves votes from less popular candidates, to the better known ones.

If you are really interested in election reform, don't be fooled by RCV/IRV—look closely at Approval Voting—that's real reform, without an agenda for any party! Approval Voting is Great! Ballots show a list of the candidates running. Approval voting lets each voter indicate support for one or more candidates—as many they approve of. A single count shows how many votes each candidate received, and the winner is the candidate with the most support. “Percentage approval” is an easy way to display the results.

✓ It solves the lesser-of-two-evils problem, by finding the candidate with the most support across all parties and unaffiliated voters, not just which big party got-out the most voters that year.
✓ It solves spoilers, by letting you vote for more than one similar candidate.
✓ Approval Voting will work with all existing equipment, and software. Ranking systems are much more complex, and less transparent to skeptical voters.
✓ With Approval Voting you don’t have to go to the trouble of ranking all those candidates, this means fewer spoiled or rejected ballots, much faster voting, and much faster scoring—since only one count is needed.
✓ With Approval Voting, no one's votes are eliminated, redirected, or transferred; every vote counts. It's easy, you simply mark all the candidates you approve of, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

In every way, Approval Voting is superior to RCV/IRV. There's nothing to be said for RCV, except that it has misguided momentum.