The false promise of instant runoff voting

posted by
December 12, 2016
Cato Unbound
by Jason Sorens  
Posted in Commentary

"By ballot initiative, Maine has just adopted instant runoff voting (IRV) for state elections. IRV is also used in some local elections around the country. In principle, IRV has some desirable properties compared to the status quo electoral system in the United States (single-member-district plurality), but once we look at the actual political context in which it would be implemented in the United States, it may well make things worse for third parties, especially Libertarians. Moreover, there are alternative electoral systems that are superior both in the abstract and in the concrete to both the status quo and IRV." (12/09/16)  

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  • dL

    For libertarians, the Libertarian Party’s potential blackmail power is a valuable thing. We libertarians expect Democrats at least to be decent on civil liberties and Republicans at least to be decent on economic freedom. When they stray to the authoritarian side of the spectrum, the Libertarian Party can run a candidate to punish them by campaigning on those issues, drawing away conservatives upset by a Republican’s apostasy on economic freedom, for instance. The potential for this sanction should make the major parties govern in a more libertarian fashion than they would otherwise. If this is right, the adoption of IRV would result in less freedom.

    It’s not right…There never has been any demonstration that the LP has any blackmail power, wishful thinking on the matter notwithstanding.

    Alt voting systems are not panacea for the systemic liberal democratic failures in the US political system(in particular, the de Jasayian firm in the state security apparatus).

    • “There never has been any demonstration that the LP has any blackmail power, wishful thinking on the matter notwithstanding.”

      True, if by “there has never been any demonstration” you mean “there have been a crap ton of demonstrations.” Otherwise, not so much.

      One local demonstration: In 1997, I ran for city council in Springfield, Missouri. I came in third of three candidates, but got 20% of the vote, carried more than a third of the precincts, and forced a runoff. One of my opponents then adopted two of my proposals (getting the city out of the utilities and transit businesses) and the other — the candidate who ultimately won the seat — adopted a third (making marijuana the city’s “lowest law enforcement priority”). He died a few months after the election, but my impression was that he had in fact drafted an ordinance to that effect and was twisting council arms to make sure it would pass before formally introducing it.

      One national demonstration: In 2004, neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry had New Mexico on their campaign schedules. Then, on the basis of polling that had him at 5%, Michael Badnarik announced a tour of the state. Within days, both Kerry and Bush scheduled their own appearances in the state, and Bush in particular used his appearance to announce an intention to withdraw US forces from South Korea over a 10-year timeline. Yes, he broke that promise, but something forced him to MAKE that promise, and that something was the Libertarian candidate targeting a state Bush had narrowly lost (probably due to the LP vote) in 2000, making for a nasty fight in Florida.

      • dL

        Well, i was referring to POTUS elections, not the local ones. Local should run to win, not play participation trophy blackmail. But your local example would be a demonstration.

        RE: the POTUS demonstration. Blackmail implies some credible followup if payment is not made. If A blackmails B, B promises to pay but doesn’t actually pay and then crickets…that’s not’s cheap talk. The Badnarik example is not a demonstration.

        • The payoff was “I am threatening your ability to take this state. If you don’t come out and fight, you’re fucked.” Both candidates responded.

          • dL

            “Pay up or else”!!!!

            “Ok, check’s in the mail”

            “Great!!! Until next time”

            is not blackmail

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