Sunday, January 31, 2010

Instant runoff voting for US Presidential Election - not feasible in real world

The Sacramento Bee has an OpEd today promoting the use of Instant Runoff Voting for the US Presidential Election. The writer, Blair Bobier suggests that holds up Ireland's method of electing their president as example to the US to follow. Bobier does not address the issue of whether our elections systems can even count a complicated IRV election. Bobier also writes about abolishing the electoral college and adopting proportional representation, but I'm focusing on the issue of IRV:

Viewpoints: Constitution's anti-democratic, outdated values in need of purge Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010 Blair Bobier
Although George Bush's 2000 election is perhaps the starkest example of the shortcomings of the Electoral College, it must be noted that Bill Clinton was twice elected without a majority vote. This irrational electoral process is not only undemocratic, it results in a political beauty pageant devoid of serious scrutiny or debate. Using instant-runoff voting to elect our president, as the Republic of Ireland does, would encourage consideration of a diversity of candidates, allow for substantive debate and ensure that our national leader has the broadest support possible.

Free speech for all, a representative government and a democratically elected president: "The world's greatest democracy" should settle for nothing less.

Bobier holds up Ireland's Presidential office and election as an example to the US. But there is no comparison at all! Consider the facts: while Ireland's presidential office is mostly a ceremonial position, the election is only held every 7 years, and turnout for the last election was only 1.2 million voters total (out of about 2.4 million registered voters, about 50% turnout). Compare that to US Presidential election with over 131.2 million voters (615 turnout) held every 4 years.

How on earth would you administer and count a nationwide IRV election? IRV is not additive. There is no such thing as a "subtotal" in IRV. In IRV every single vote may have to be sent individually to the central agency. How is this even feasible? A national IRV election would make Bush v Gore seem a walk in the park.

Bobier's statement that instant runoff voting would increase debate is not based on fact. Wherever IRV is adopted debate has been sadly lacking. In fact, citizens of Burlington Vermont cite IRV's negative impact on debate as one of several reasons for a vote on repealing instant runoff voting this March 2010.

Instant runoff voting is a well intended election reform, but is not practical, does not meet its promise, violates election transparency practices, and makes elections overly complex.

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1 comment:

Susan said...

Feasible is:

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

The bill is currently endorsed by over 1,659 state legislators (in 48 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware --75%, Maine -- 77%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 74% , Massachusetts -- 73%, Minnesota – 75%, New York -- 79%, Washington -- 77%, and West Virginia- 81%. Support is strong in every partisan and demographic group surveyed.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in 19 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.