Realities Mar Instant Runoff Voting Flaws and Benefits of IRV

45 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2011 Last revised: 30 Nov 2011

Date Written: June 5, 2011


After the United States' 2000 Presidential election, in which Ralph Nader’s candidacy caused G.W.Bush to win rather than Al Gore, a Maryland nonprofit organization led a movement to adopt the instant runoff voting (IRV) method of counting rank choice ballots. IRV was proposed to solve the spoiler effect in the case where a minor third candidate siphons off enough votes to cause the winner of an election to be the second most popular candidate. Presidential elections in 1844, 1848, 1884, 1912, and 2000 were likely not won by the most popular candidate. However, instant runoff voting does not have much academic support. This paper examines a list of IRV’s flaws and benefits, and concludes that IRV threatens the fairness, accuracy, timeliness, and economy of U.S. elections. Scholars have proposed several other alternative electoral methods that preserve existing voter rights and improve upon the plurality method. What features should we look for in an alternative electoral method?

Keywords: rank choice voting, instant runoff voting, alternative voting methods, electoral methods, IRV, STV, single transferrable vote

Suggested Citation

Dopp, Kathy Anne, Realities Mar Instant Runoff Voting Flaws and Benefits of IRV (June 5, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Kathy Anne Dopp (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

United States

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