The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

The United States should adopt Instant Runoff Voting.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/20/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,043 times Debate No: 24364
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




The US should switch their voting system from First Past the Post to the Alternative Vote, or Instant Runoff Voting. This would help people to elect who they really want, not who they think has the best chance. Let me give you an example. Here's what happens under our current system:
Say you go to vote on Election Day. You REALLY like the Libertarian candidate and agree with them completely. But you know that only the Republican and Democratic candidates have a chance at winning. So instead of throwing away your vote, you vote for the Republican candidate.
Here's with the new system:
Say you go to vote on Election Day. You REALLY like the Libertarian candidate and agree with them completely. So you rank him #1 on your ballot. Now out of all the other candidates, your second favorite is the Constitutionalist candidate. So you rank him #2. After that, you'd rather have the Republican candidate than the Democrat, so you rank the Republican #3. Finally, you don't really like any of the others, so you turn in your ballot like such.
This would open the door to third-party candidates that don't get their fair say.
It IS within our reach. Countries that already use it either for their Congress or leader:
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Even some places in the USA already use it, like Berkeley, California
Basalt, Colorado
And many others.
So here's how they count it:
They take all of the #1 ranked candidates and get the results. Then, the candidate who has the least amount of votes is taken out, and then they count all of the #2 votes from the people who ranked him #1 and adjust accordingly. They do this until someone reaches over 50% or their are only 2 candidates left.
We can change America for the better, we just have to have the willpower.


Thanks Mr. Voices.

==Reasons why instant runoff voting (IRV) is bad==

1) Strategic Voting

Let's say there are three parties: the Libertarian Party, the Democrats, and the Republicans. Each party has one candidate in the race.

If I want the Libertarian Party candidate to win the most, but the second preference in the Democrat, then I'm SUPPOSED to rank the Libertarian as #1 and the Democrat as #2. But let's say that most of the Democratic voters are likely to rank the Democrat as #1, the Republican as #2, and the Libertarian as #3 (since Democrats see Libertarians as even more politically extreme than Republicans). That would mean that if the Democrat is eliminated first, a huge number of votes go to the Republican candidate (the candidate that I DON'T want to win). As a result, it makes sense for me to rank the Democrat first and the Libertarian second, in an attempt to keep the Democratic candidate in the race. Then the Republican votes will all go to the Libertarian candidate (because Republicans see Libertarian small government values as closer to their own). Thus, NOT voting for my own candidate makes it more likely that my candidate wins.

It wouldn't be difficult for political strategists to calculate the above and tell voters how to vote strategically.

So the first major problem with IRV is: "It is an erratic voting system because ranking a candidate higher can actually cause the candidate to lose, and ranking a candidate lower can cause the candidate to win."

2) Extra candidates

In Wisconsin, Republicans entered themselves as fake Democrats in many open primary races because this might have altered the outcome of the election. In the same way, IRV has the perplexing characteristic that merely adding an additional candidate to the race can alter the outcome.

For example, let's say there are 2 candidates, John and David. John would get 60% of the vote and David would get 40% of the vote if they went head to head. Now let's say we add in Peter. A lot of John's supporters really like Peter but David's supporters hate Peter, so the vote is 40% Peter, 40% David, and 20% John. John gets eliminated. The problem is, the 20% staunch John supporters prefer David over Peter, so now David wins.

So fielding a candidate that can steal votes away from the likely winner is a good political strategy. Republicans can field fake Democrats or fake liberals to siphon votes away from a likely winner, and Democrats can field fake conservatives.

In political science, a voting system is considered bad when merely adding one additional candidate alters the outcome.

In addition, you can see that the candidate that was preferred by a majority (60% preferred John to David) can still LOSE in an IRV system. This is nonsensical.

My opponent mentions that IRV is used in the Bay Area. Oakland's Mayor Jean Quan beat the candidate who was preferred by an overwhelming plurality because the third candidate in the race ran a campaign that said, "vote for me, but rank Jean Quan second." This is nonsensical in a world where most people don't research candidates but merely vote the party line. They will do their rankings however their party's candidate tells them to.

So two more objections:

3) The candidate with majority support can lose.

4) People don't research candidates, so adding more candidates and more choices is bad.

Another objection is:

5) Ballot counting problems

"It is also much more difficult to implement with security and integrity because the votes cannot be summed as in most other election methods." (same source) We would need to buy need vote counting systems to implement rank order voting. This would be expensive. My opponent needs to prove that states can afford this. In addition, my opponent's proposal violates federalism because states each determine individually how to count votes. My opponent needs to explain how this would even work with the electoral college. Some states are winner take all - whichever candidate wins gets ALL of the states electors, whereas other states award electors proportionately to that candidate's share of the total vote. Proportionate states essentially do something similar to IRV in that if a third party candidate wins 10% of the vote, he or she gets 10% of the electors. This is preferable to a system of IRV plus winner take all, which has all the problems listed above.

Lastly, since the vote counting system is more complex, recalls would be more difficult and hanging chads more problematic. Given the unfairness of Bush v. Gore, adding to our recount problems in the US would be bad.


My opponent claims that IRV gives third parties a greater chance. This isn't true.

"Like all winner-take-all voting systems, IRV tends to exaggerate the number of seats won by the largest parties; small parties without majority support in any given constituency are unlikely to earn seats in a legislature ... A simulation of IRV in the 2010 UK general election by the Electoral Reform Society concluded that the election would have altered the balance of seats between the three main parties, but the number of seats won by minor parties would have remained unchanged." (sources: and The Guardian)

In addition, turn, in a non-parliamentary system, third parties make the government more unstable because it is impossible to build coalitions and thus it is impossible to pass any legislation. In a parliamentary system, third parties must be included into the majority coalition who chooses the prime minister. However, presidential systems don't allow such coalition building.

A study by the Kellogg Institute concluded that, "the combination of a multiparty system and a presidential system is inimical to stable democracy ... among all of the cases (past or present) of stable presidential democracy, only one—the Chilean—had a multiparty system. In presidential democracies, two-party systems are more
capable of avoiding immobilism and intense legislative/executive conflict because they facilitate the formation of a government with a majority (or close to it) in congress, and also because ideological polarization is less likely with only two parties."

So turn this argument against my opponent. Third parties would be bad.

Lastly, the strategic voting that my opponent talks about SOLVES. If you're Libertarian and you know your candidate can't win, you should vote for the candidate who is closest to you on the political spectrum, which would most likely be the Republican. This solves the problem of your vote not counting. Under IRV, in the BEST CASE scenario, when your third party candidate loses, your vote just goes to the Republican anyway. In the worst case scenario, you accidentally helped the Democrat win with IRV.
Debate Round No. 1


In this round I will address all of my opponent's contentions and then reaffirm the resolution.

1. Actually that wouldn't happen. If you don't want a candidate to win, you don't rank them at all and leave the box blank. So if you want the Democrat to win but like none of the others, and if the Democrat gets eliminated in the first round, then you're not electing another candidate whom you don't like.
2. They can already corrupt the system in the status quo. In the scenario you gave, David wouldn't necessarily win because you're assuming that 100% of John supporters ranked David #2, which is highly unlikely. You say that people in this system would just listen to others without doing research, but I'll remind you that that also happens very much in today's FPTP system.
3. If you were to do a poll using the "regular" First Past The Post system we used today, found the "early predicted winner", and then did an election using an entirely different system, of course the results will be different. The point of the system is to find a candidate that most people would actually want to have, and so people voting for a 3rd party candidate would be justified.
4. That doesn't have to do with Instant Runoff Voting but more of people today. It's irrelevant.
"Those who cast the vote decide nothing, those who count the vote decide everything."
- Joseph Stalin
According to Black Box Voting (, an independent company investigating voter fraud, hand counting the paper ballots is actually quicker. The machines can break down at any time, and when they do, they must spend hours trying to fix it. The machines are also more susceptible to corruption. They can easily alter the results and hackers can change the outcome (for more see HBO's "Hacking Democracy"). So not only would hand counting be quicker and cheaper, it would also be more reliable (assuming they did the correct thing by allowing the public to watch the counting, like in Germany).

The purpose of IRV is that you can rank #1 a candidate whom you agree with the most. Especially if they are a 3rd party candidate. In the current voting system, if you vote for a 3rd party candidate, you are throwing your vote away. You can't get the majority of people collectively in the FPTP system to elect a 3rd party candidate. In cases like the Bush-Gore recount, while it may take longer, but it would be worth the significant change that could benefit everyone.


Thanks for the quick response Mr. Voices.

Let's look to my points and whether my opponent adequately refutes them.

1) IRV increases strategic voting

My original argument was that ranking your preferred candidate as number 1 can make him/her lose and ranking your least preferred candidate last can help him/her to win. This makes no sense. People have to vote strategically under IRV as well to prevent their votes from being wasted or having a counterproductive result.

My opponent says that you can just leave the box blank. But this doesn't answer the argument that "ranking a candidate higher can actually cause the candidate to lose, and ranking a candidate lower can cause the candidate to win."

If you leave the box blank, that's equivalent to ranking the candidate last. It doesn't change the problems with IRV.

2) Extra candidates

My argument was that IRV is stupid because it's possible that candidate A beats candidate B in a head-to-head election, but if candidate C enters the race, suddenly candidate B beats candidate A. That makes absolutely no sense.

Parties will run fake candidates to split the vote of popular candidates so they don't make it to the final 2.

My opponent just nitpicks an assumption I make in the scenario I gave, but that's the point of giving hypotheticals: it simplifies the issue so it's easier to understand. And it's not that far-fetched. Median voter theory states that voters will prefer candidates who are closer to them on the political spectrum.

So if this is the political spectrum:

Liberal Conservative

Then it's not that far-fetched to believe that if candidate A loses, all of his supporters will instead vote for candidate B.

This proves that fielding extra candidates DOES split the vote, potentially causing the winner in a head-to-head election to instead lose in the first round of vote counting.

3) The candidate with majority support can lose

My opponent's response has something to do with doing a poll under the current system. However, the point of this objection is that under ALL voting systems, the person who is preferred by a majority should win (assuming you believe in democracy). However, if you remember the example of John, David, and Peter, the majority preferred John to David, but David wins because Peter knocks John out of the race in round 1. Yet 60% of voters preferred John to David. A "first past the post" system better upholds democratic values.

4) People won't research all the additional candidates.

My opponent says that this happens now. However, NOW there are usually only two viable candidates. Under instant runoff, your choice of who to rank second or third could entirely sway the outcome of the election. This requires a level of research that people do not do. The two party system simplifies the electoral process for people. I wonder how the majority of voters will choose their rankings, given that few people do research on candidates. It's a double bind: either people rank third party candidates without researching them (which undermines democracy) OR they do the responsible thing and don't rank anyone but the Democrat and Republican, which is functionally the same as the current system. Best case, my opponent is advocating for the current system. Worst case, he is advocating for people making uninformed rankings that can completely alter the outcome of the election.

5) Ballot counting

My opponent advocates hand counting. However, his source's speculative claim doesn't seem to be true. You have to pay people to count the ballots by hand. You also have to print a different type of ballot than the ones we currently use with machines. I would like my opponent to prove we can afford such a system.

In addition, hand counting leads to its own problems. In Republican states, it is likely Republicans would be counting the ballots. When there are marginal ballots where it's unclear who someone voted for, Republican vote counters are going to be biased and award more marginal ballots to the Republican candidate.

Bryan Pfaffenberger, a professor at the University of Virginia, points out, "By taking paper out of the voting process, mechanical voting machines make it impossible for anyone to invalidate a ballot. A complex interlocking system – a technological achievement – prevents overvoting, in which a voter casts votes for more candidates than the law permits. Above all, the voting machine's virtue was precisely that it left nothing for partisan election officials to haggle over."

He continues, "Returning to [hand counting] might work well in areas with lots of oversight, but in contrast to other stable democracies, this movement has made little progress in the US. Throughout most of the country, today's election system has more in common with that of the 1890s: It's inadequately supervised, insufficiently professionalized, and all too often staffed with openly partisan officials. Under these circumstances, what voting machine backers believed a century ago still holds true: It just isn't wise to let people count ballots."

My opponent also doesn't answer the following arguments:

*Federalism: each State has the right to adopt its own system. The federal government cannot mandate how they apportion votes.

*Electoral college: IRV doesn't work well with winner take all. In states that award electors proportionate to a candidate's share of the vote, you're not "throwing your vote away" if you vote third party. That person still gets electors. If all states adopted proportionate systems, that would be preferable to IRV.

*Multi-party presidential systems are bad. The Kellogg School (at Northwestern) found that in all of history, there has only been ONE stable multi-party presidential system. Most presidential systems with successful third parties stagnate because the legislature can't get anything done. We can barely get anything done with two parties who always disagree. Imagine if we had 4 or 5 disagreeing.

*The Guardian's analysis of the 2010 UK election shows that IRV does NOT increase the number of third party candidates that win. So IRV doesn't accomplish my opponent's goals anyways.

*If you don't want to throw your vote away, vote for one of the two major parties. This solves. Even under IRV, Ross Perot would have still lost. The only way IRV could have possibly changed the outcome is that Bush might have beat Clinton because IRV might have screwed up the election. The lack of third parties has to do with our form of government (presidential vs. parliamentary), and NOT with the way the votes are counted.
Debate Round No. 2


I apologize if I sound like a broken record here, but I don't think my opponent understood exactly what I was getting at.
I'll try to go back over my opponent's points once more.

1. I don't think you fully understand the system. I say this not to be condescending, but because you said "If you leave the box blank, that's equivalent to ranking the candidate last." That is NOT the same thing. If you rank the candidate last, then you're voting for a candidate that you don't want. But if you leave it blank, then none of your votes can go to the candidate(s) that you don't agree with.

2. This problem isn't at all specific to IRV. There are many fake candidates today. So that aspect of it may not change, and maybe never will. But your attack has nothing to do specifically with IRV.

3. The FPTP system does NOT better uphold "democratic values". Looking at your example, in the current FPTP system, that would still happen. If most prefer John to David, but for whatever reason a large number of John supporters vote for Peter, then David would win.
Ex. (in the FPTP system):
Let's say the numbers pre-Peter are
John 54%
David 46%

Now, if you add in Peter, the numbers (using your same logic) would be
Peter 40%
John 14%
David 46%

You see, under our current FPTP system in your hypothetical, David still wins because he has the largest percent. The whole contention of "upholding democracy" isn't true. You act like FPTP can't be susceptible to fake candidates or splitting the vote.

So again, your point isn't specific to IRV.

4. This also has nothing to do with IRV.

If 3rd party candidates had a good chance at winning (i.e. Ross Perot), then they would be invited at debates. Instead of only hearing Democrats and Republicans at the debates, they would invite everyone who has a good chance. Besides, even today in the FPTP system, uninformed voters can completely alter the outcome of an election

5. I'll prove that we can afford such a system.
Even though I again don't think this contention is specific to IRV, I'll prove that there's a way we can count the ballots quicker and cheaper than today's system.
Let's look at Maryland as an example.
In the status quo, millions of dollars are spent by stats every year to buy the e-voting machines and to maintain.
Electronic voting machines cost an average of $23.40 per registered voter.
About half is because of the machines they replace every few years, and half is to maintain the machines (unloading the machines in, keeping them in an air conditioned room).
Hand counting ballots costs an average of $3.20 per registered voter. (Sources down below).

Not only would it be affordable, it would help us save a lot of money.

IRV is more democratic than FPTP voting, because under FPTP voting you can win with less than 50%. IRV goes until a candidate gets more than 50%.



Thanks for the response.

1) IRV increases strategic voting

The argument here is that, paradoxically, ranking your favored candidate last may increase his chance of winning and ranking your least favored candidate first can increase his chance of losing.

My opponent's repeats that you can just not mark your least favorite at all. However, there are two problems with this: 1) the argument about strategic voting has more to do with the wisdom of marking your favored candidate as #1, since in many scenarios this is actually counter-productive and 2) not marking a candidate is THE SAME as marking a candidate last, since the candidate with your lowest rank can never receive your vote. When it comes down to two candidates, your vote could only potentially go to your second least favorite candidate. So when votes are being tallied, not ranking someone is treated the same as voting them last. My opponent seems to be the one who doesn't fully understand IRV.

2) Adding candidates alters the outcome of the election

My opponent doesn't answer this argument at all. IRV creates a new, unique problem in that you can eliminate popular candidates in early "rounds" of voting by splitting the vote count. It makes no sense to adopt a voting system where candidate A beats candidate B in a head-to-head (meaning voters prefer candidate A to candidate B), but if you add in a third candidate (candidate C), suddenly candidate B wins the election. Beyond fake candidates, this outcome simply makes no sense. We should never adopt voting systems, by choice, that lead to absurd outcomes.

My opponent concedes that this phenomenon happens under IRV.

3) Majority preference

I agree with my opponent that under both "first past the post" and IRV, the candidate with majority support can *theoretically* lose. However, in practice, it's more likely that a majority support candidate loses under IRV because under our current system, people understand that voting for a third party is equivalent to throwing their votes away. However, IRV is a MUCH more complex system and people may not understand how their voting behavior is negatively impacting the candidate that they prefer. So it's more likely that the wrong candidate wins under IRV.

If you combine IRV with open primaries, the system becomes even more complex and even more likely to result in strange election outcomes. My opponent has the burden to show that IRV would work in open primary states, like Wisconsin.

4) People won't research all the candidates

My opponent says that the third party candidates would be invited to the presidential debates "if they had a good chance of winning." The current policy is that you have to be polling at 10% or higher to be invited. If no one knows who you are, how can you ever poll at above 10%? It's a chicken-and-egg problem: you won't be invited to the debate unless people know who you are, but my opponent's only method of educating voters is to have 3rd party candidates attend the debates.

My opponent doesn't have a *good* answer to the uninformed electorate double bind: that either people vote without becoming informed (which is bad) or only rank the Republican and Democrat, which is the same as the current system. My opponent also never responds to my turn: that multi-party presidential systems are unstable forms of government and lead to legislative stagnation.

My opponent says that uninformed voters happen now, but the two party system and party platforms simplify the electoral process. People can vote for a party platform instead of researching individual candidates.

5) Vote counting

My opponent drops my evidence from Bryan Pfaffenberger: that in the US, with the weak oversight we have over elections, openly partisan election officials can easily tamper with ballots if we use hand counting. Countries that hand count currently have MUCH better election oversight than does the US. We cannot possibly switch and maintain a fair system. The biases of the people counting will affect to whom they award marginal votes, when it's "unclear" for whom someone voted.

My opponent still drops my arguments that: 1) federalism means the US cannot mandate IRV, 2) awarding electors proportionately solves better than using a winner take all/IRV system for the electoral college, 3) multi-party presidential systems are bad, 4) refusing to vote 3rd party because it's "a waste of a vote" already solves now.
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks for the quick response.

1. There is a very low chance of that happening. There are loopholes in any voting system, but they're highly unlikely. As far as the not ranking = ranking last, I see what you're saying but I was talking about if there were several candidates whom you don't like. Then, it wouldn't be the same.
2. Adding candidates in the status quo can alter the outcome of the election. The problem you're referring to is the Condorcet method. But IRV solves for that, while the status quo does not.
The second link has a great graph showing the advantages and disadvantages of all. You can see that IRV solves for much more than Plurality (FPTP). I'll include it in the comment section.

Officials can find it much easier to tamper with electronic machines. All they need is a hacker.

I need evidence that the U.S. can't mandate IRV, states don't award proportionately for the presidential race (final). Multi-party systems can be a great thing, they provide much more balance. On the large global political scale, our Democrats and Republicans are very similar. That's the problem. If you want to vote for who YOU ACTUALLY AGREE WITH, then you can't do it in FPTP without wasting your vote. This way, you have a backup.

*Overall, you can see that IRV may not be the best mathematical system, but it's the easiest for people to understand, it blows the current system out of the water and makes it look prehistoric, and it makes the most sense.

I urge a Pro vote. Thanks to my opponent.


My opponent doesn't respond to most of my arguments and doesn't describe anything in his sources. I'll rebut a few things he says real quick and then restate my case in the last round.

{{{ Adding candidates alters the outcome now }}}

This is only true if you add a candidate who gets the most votes. Under IRV, you can add a candidate who has very little support, but who splits the vote count of the *most* popular candidate enough so that this candidate loses and is eliminated before the last "round" of voting. For example, candidate A could have 60% of the vote to candidate B's 40% in a head-to-head matchup. But if enough candidates run that are similar to candidate A in ideology, candidate B advances to the finals, but candidate A was eliminated early on, allowing candidate B to beat a weaker opponent. Candidate B could even have his friends run with similar political platforms to candidate A in order to have him eliminated early.

{{{ Is Hand-Counting the Votes under IRV feasible? }}}

As to hand counting votes vs. machine tallying, there has yet to be a reported incident of hacking. The machines are a closed system, which is nearly impossible to hack.

In contrast, my opponent drops all my arguments as to why having openly partisan election officials hand-counting ballots - with little to no oversight - is a bad idea.

{{{ Voting 3rd Party }}}

My opponent claims that IRV is easier to understand. This makes no sense. The current system is whoever you vote for gets your vote: vote for the candidate you want. Under IRV, there are scenarios where you are HURTING your candidates chances by voting for him. This system is far more complicated.

In addition, 3rd Parties don't suddenly win under IRV, as seen in the UK. But even if they did, my opponent drops all my arguments about having more than 2 parties under a presidential system of government is BAD.

{{{ Awarding Electors Proportionately }}}

My opponent claims that no states do this. He is wrong, quite simply.

Nebraska and Maine currently award electors proportionally instead of winner-take-all, and many other states are considering moving towards proportional awarding of electors. [1] My opponent still doesn't respond to the argument that awarding electors proportionally solves many of the problems with winner-take-all, without the baggage of IRV (overcomplicating the system, allowing the majority candidate to lose, strategic voting, additional candidates altering the outcome, etc).

Debate Round No. 4


Mrihearvoices forfeited this round.


And that's that...

Too bad; this was a good debate while it lasted.
Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Mrihearvoices 6 years ago
I apologize sincerely for the forfeit. I've been really busy the last few days and when there was an hour left to write my response, my internet went down. If you want to, we can do the last round in the comments i suppose.
Posted by Mrihearvoices 6 years ago
I should've clarified, my bad. While the entire country of New Zealand does not use IRV to elect their leaders, some cities do to elect their mayors:
Posted by larztheloser 6 years ago
Just FYI, New Zealand does not have Instant Runoff as described. We have Mixed-Member Proportional voting, which does not involve ranking or anything like that (in fact, I think it's way more fair than even Instant Runoff - some say it's too fair, because minor parties often get more of a say in contentious policies than major parties). I should know this because I live there. Don't let this impact on the debate though.
Posted by bluesteel 6 years ago
lol, DDO sucks; my political spectrum didn't come out right. Here is what I meant Mr. Voices:

Liberal (---------candidate A-------candidate B----------------candidate C------) Conservative
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit.