Instant Runoff Voting

“Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)” (sometimes also called Ranked Choice Voting) for all state and federal elections in Virginia.  Instant Runoff requires that a candidate for an office get a majority of the votes – not just a plurality.  This requirement promotes more civilized campaigns, because candidates can’t just appeal to their extreme left or right base:  they need a broader swath of the electorate to win.


The second feature of Instant Runoff is that voters may rank multiple candidates in the order of their preference on a single ballot.  When the votes are counted, if no one has a majority, the last place candidate is eliminated, and their second-choice votes distributed to those candidates, and the votes are again tallied.  This continues until a winner emerges with a majority.  It’s not as hard as it may sound - see Flowchart on left.


IRV ends the so-called “wasted vote syndrome” and the accusation that candidates other than those of the two old parties are “spoilers.”  Where it has been used, IR has reduced negative campaigning, because it requires candidates to appeal to a broader range of voters (in attempt to earn second and third choice votes, which might be necessary to win election), and because it allows candidates from outsides the two old parties to better compete.

In 2016, voters in Maine passed by 52% a citizen-initiated referendum to implement Instant Runoff for state and federal offices.  The referendum was endorsed by over 500 civic, business, labor, and faith leaders and organizations including the League of Women Voters.  


Instant Runoff is already used by tens of millions of voters, including for national elections in Australia & Ireland, and London & San Francisco and ten other American cities when electing mayors.  It is also used in picking the Oscar for Best Picture, the Heisman sports trophy, and in electing student leaders at more than 50 American colleges.

Click on an image for more details on that Reform subject

In May 2014, the Arlington County, VA Democratic Committee (ACDC) needed to choose three nominees from multiple candidates for special elections.  Unable to afford a primary, and not wanting to use a convention which is limited to people who can spend hours at such a gathering, ACDC choose to use Instant Runoff. got permission to conduct an exit survey of more than 1,000 people out of the 3,723 participants.  Here are some results:


Voters Understanding of IRV

    •    85% of respondents found ranking candidates easy and 11% of   

        respondents said that ranking was neither easy nor difficult.

    •    70% of respondents said that they understood IRV very well, 23% of

        respondents said they understood IRV somewhat well.

    •    88% of respondents found the instructions on the ballot very easy to


    •    88% of respondents said that they ranked at least 2 candidates on

       their ballot.

    •    97% of the voters who participated in the caucus had their vote

       continue into the final round out counting.


Perceptions of IRV

    •    49% of respondents said that there was less criticism in this race,

        compared to only 2% that thought there was more criticism.

    •    26% of respondents said that they were more inclined to vote for 

        their most preferred candidate as opposed to 3% who said they 

        were less likely to vote for their favorite candidate.

    •    60% of respondents support the ACDC using IRV for nominations, 

        32% of respondents had no opinion.

    •    73% of respondents would favor using IRV for state and 

        congressional primaries.

IRV is also used by:     Click the underlined title to go to lists of many more at


Universities:  UVA, CalTech, Cornell, Duke, Emory Law, Geo. Washington Univ, Georgetown, Harvard, MIT, Univ of MD - Baltimore, and UCLA.


Political Jurisdictions:  Cambridge, MA; Portland, ME; Minneapolis, MN; San Francisco, CA; and Takoma Park MD.


Private Organizations: American Association of University Women, American Bar Association Law Student Division, National Organization of Women, American Mensa, and American Political Science Association.