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September 06, 2010

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Dale Sheldon-Hess

The only point in your list which is true is #4.

1.) You need to look at Australia, which uses IRV to elect it's house of representatives. The campaigns there are not noticeably any "cleaner"; but cleanliness is a somewhat subjective issue, so I won't focus on it.

2.) IRV actually has a bias towards extreme candidates. The proof of this is in computer simulations: http://rangevoting.org/IEVS/Pictures.html

From those graphics, IRV's preference for less-moderate candidates becomes clear.

3.) Strategic voting is still necessary when their is a strong third-party candidate in an IRV election. Consider:

45%: A > B > C
10%: B > A > C
15%: B > C > A
30%: C > B > A

If this election is just A vs. B, B wins, 55% to 45%. But when you add candidate C, the winner changes to A, just like in plurality. Therefore, C spoiled the election for B.

IRV LOOKS like it should fix the spoiler problem, but that is only because all our third parties are currently so pathetically small. When there are three competitive candidates in an election though, IRV fails in the same way that plurality does. Spoiler elections, lesser-of-two-evils tactics, and a two-party-dominated government.

4.) You're are correct that better expressiveness would be better.

A better answer is approval voting (or even better still, score voting), which ACTUALLY has no spoilers in three-candidate races, and ACTUALLY has no bias toward extreme candidates; and so it actually leads to better electoral outcomes. And score voting would allow more expressiveness too.

If you're curious, check out William Poundstone's book "Gaming the Vote", or my blog, The Least of All Evils, at http://leastevil.blogspot.com

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