Feedback from Fairvote


Someone in FairVote’s forum asked for introductions and questions within the last few days. After my intro and link to my webpage, I expressed my new reservations about RCV:

I have recently learned of cases where RCV fails and voting for your favorite is the worst thing you can do. Also, a compromise candidate who leads with 2nd place votes could get shut out without enough first place votes. I would like this group to check these issues out. Note that RCV crashed and was repealed in Burlington VT. Of course, there are places where RCV excels.

Rob Richie 8:31 AM (13 hours ago)

to me, Ranked

Great to see folks sharing who they are and what they’re up to.

Warren, I wanted to say that every system has a paradox that can “look bad,” but some of those paradoxes have real-life consequences in how people vote and others really don’t. The “favorite betrayal” issue with ranked choice voting is the same with runoff elections, for example, but less likely and less prone to strategic manipulation - but runoffs are widely accepted as a reasonable method of election outside of the administrative and turnout challenges associated with them.

When you get into systems that really work in practice, ranked choice voting is right at the top It is used literally all over the world for major governmental and private elections and functions very well in highly competitive environments without being undermined by strategic voting. That cannot be said about other alternatives to plurality and traditional runoffs.

By the way, your overseas voters already cast ranked choice voting ballots in your federal elections that might have a runoff, like your special election for US Senate last November.

Rob Richie

Any suggestions for a reply?!?


You’re going to try to convince Rob Richie that IRV has flaws?

I wish you the best of luck.:rofl:


(Though yes, the problem with IRV is that those failure scenarios happen in completely realistic common situations. Other systems only fail when there are unusual situations like Condorcet cycles or extreme polarization.)


FairVote is a lobby group. They have no interest in election science or improving democracy. They are in the game of increasing partisanship. You are wasting your time.


A better use of your time would be to work at a lower level, trying to persuade citizens and maybe politicians who either (1) have not heard about RCV yet at all, or (2) support RCV because they are disinformed, and genuinely believe that RCV elects majority winners and prevents spoilers and allows honest voting and allows third parties to win and all that nonsense that should be describing a cardinal system. You need different strategies in each case, though, and (2) is a little harder because human beings have this thing about not wanting to admit that they are wrong. But then again, (1) is difficult because anything but FPTP is a very difficult concept for people to grasp.

On second thought, what if you tried using him being a lobbyist as a persuasion tool? (The first sentence could use some work.

We all know that you are simply a powerful Democrat who wants to make the Democratic Party the dominant party in the United States. But unfortunately, ranked-choice voting could still let Republicans slip through.

Here is the hypothetical situation. All your democracy improvements are made, and Democrats consistently take large majorities in the House and Senate and win the White House every time 60-40 after the RCV process finishes. Republicans try everything from crazy right-wing fanatics to almost liberal Republicans, and never manage to flip the White House.

And then, suddenly, the Green Party decides they want to win the White House. They hear that RCV does not suffer from spoilers and decide “What is the worst that could happen?” And so, they campaign hard, trying to swing democrats to vote G>D>R…

…and they win 31% of the vote. So the Democrat is eliminated. Unfortunately, the Republican this cycle was fairly moderate, and so over a third actually picked the Republican second. This means the Republican wins 51-49 over the Green! And so, the Republican reaches the White House. Then the 67% supermajorities of Dems+Greens impeach and convict the Republican, leading to a constitutional crisis, and a civil war breaks out…

…ok, maybe not that extreme. But the point is, Ranked Choice Voting will not safeguard your great blue utopia forever.


They are in the game of increasing partisanship.

I’m sure most of them mean well, and it’s just ignorance, not malice. Not sure about the people at the top, though, who have had IRV’s flaws pointed out to them many times.


I think it’s possible to argue with lobbying groups for which IRV is not such a central feature of who they are. If FairVote acknowledges that IRV is an inferior reform, they have to admit that they’ve thrown away several million dollars on an unworthy goal. I’ve tried arguing with some local organizations, and while I can’t point to any spectacular successes, I have at least gotten them to hedge and consider backing non-IRV reforms. However, the larger the organization, the harder it is. So to @wbport1 I would recommend that you contact local NGOs who support IRV, and see if you can get them to consider alternate reforms.


It is not just STV/IRV they are pushing. In Canada they have been behind a lot of the pushes for MMP. When I questioned them on why, it came down to their belief that everybody was partisan and as such could be better served by partisan votes. So you are right that they are ignorant not evil but they are also belivers in tribalism.


Although here is how I would respond to part of the letter (if another forum user has a better way of putting it, though, I would wait for that):

IRV success rates are inflated by selection bias, because places that have poor experiences with the system (e.g. voter confusion, pathological outcomes) often get rid of it. So the places that will keep using it will be those where the problems are least likely to occur, or least likely to be noticed.

Although Australia’s “complete rankings” requirement is a notable exception. It’s created a ton of headaches. And yet, it’s still around.


I thought the Canadian FairVote was completely different people?

“Here’s why [alternative vote] is not the answer to Canada’s democratic deficit.”


That would be news to me. There are like a dozen orgs but I always assumed they had common funding. Would explain their MMP push though


The US FairVote also supports MMP. They just call it something different.

I’m not opposed to party list voting. I just think that there are better forms of PR out there. So incorporating a partisan party list system is not among my main criticisms of MMP. My biggest concern with MMP is it’s tendency to produce mostly 2 party domination because most of the seats are still elected under FPTP.

I also have other concerns about MMP, such as it’s ability to break down and degrade into parallel voting (which is basically a compromise between FPTP and pure party list voting where some seats with FPTP and elect some seats with party list voting).

These two posts sum up my opinion on MMP as well as MMP-type systems like DMP and RUP:


What about RepresentUs? They have a whole host of pro-democracy reforms they are supporting, and we could try to convince them to support Score and/or STAR in addition to IRV.


As a general comment, when trying to get a pro-IRV entity to support cardinal methods, it might be a good idea to frame this as a slight course adjustment, not a full stop or full reverse. ("Course set, bearing 263 mark 881! Sir, those coordinates are wrong! It should be 236 mark 881! *beep boop* Course adjusted. New heading 236 mark 881. Go! ")
Compliment them for being able to see beyond FPTP, and congratulate them for supporting general improvements to democracy.


Yeah I’ve written to them before, no response


Well obviously we need more people to write to them, perhaps with the weight of an actual company… never mind. (Although, if CES declares itself unambiguously not as a PAC, they might have credibility…)


His reply is garbage, to put it bluntly.

YOU: I’m really concerned about RCV for specific issues

ROB: All systems have flaws, RCV is the best, and I have the popularity numbers to prove it

His only answer to your actual concern is that “people” think another system (plain runoff) is okay, and it has the same problems. That’s not much better than saying “there’s a lot of people who think our current plurality/FPTP vote-for-one is fine, so as long as we’re not worse than that, there’s no issue”.

His primary reason to reject anything other than IRV is that other systems aren’t already in use. “We can’t consider using those other things because we aren’t already using them!”

This is typical of his arguments.


And getting through to him is pretty hopeless, right? He’s had this stuff pointed out to him many times. What we should focus on is getting through to everyone else.


We’ll be at Unrig Summit ( this weekend and will be meeting everyone in the advocacy space. We’ll do what we can to show people how election systems can compare.

The important thing to remember is that the biggest impact we can make is helping cities and counties that currently use Single Choice Voting (FPTP) to switch to AV/Score.
We’re resolved that we may never convince FairVote of the value of Approval Voting, and so we’re not putting energy into it.
We’re making great progress working with existing foundations and organizations to further promote AV/Score and other methods that elect consensus candidates.

Looking forward to giving everyone a report on how Unrig went next week.


RepresentUs actually looks like a greater problem than FairlybadVote – the former is growing VERY rapidly, and unfortunately so is their misinformation about IRV. I still could see them (or at least some of their members) just being another victim of FbV’s constant lying. The least that CES’s delegation could do is convince some members of local RepUs chapters that Score Voting is also a workable idea. (Better, of course, would be to talk to leaders of the movement – but we have to do it as “By the way please also consider this” or “You have the right idea but picked the wrong solution”, and NOT “We are right, and you are wrong!”.)
Because once they hit the turning point (whatever the latest color of line in their videos explaining their winning strategy) that triggers a rush of state activity and then federal victory, we may be locked in an Instant Runoff Voting world for years to come.

Approval Voting may do more harm than good if pushed as an end goal (and not just an in-road to Score Voting). Having to change systems once and then again can be really difficult.

STAR voting is harder to sell because it does not satisfy IoIA, which makes it much harder to argue it breaks 2PD. (My reasoning for Score is: All candidates are scored independently => Third parties cannot spoil the election => Third parties can grow underneath the major ones without changing anything => Third parties can eventually win.)