Two Cheers for Instant Runoff Voting

21 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2014 Last revised: 8 Apr 2014

See all articles by Michael Lewyn

Michael Lewyn

Touro University - Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

Date Written: 2012


In multi-candidate elections, an unpopular candidate can often win with a minority of the vote if his or her opponents split their votes among several candidates. To solve this problem, some commentators have endorsed instant runoff voting (IRV). Under IRV, voters rank their choices, and the choices of the weaker candidates would be distributed among the leaders. As a result, a candidate who has a plurality of votes but is opposed by the majority of the electorate would be less likely to prevail.

Most law-related scholarship on IRV has either strongly endorsed or strongly opposed IRV. This article, by contrast, generally endorses IRV but concludes that IRV has been somewhat oversold. Some IRV supporters claim that IRV will enhance voter satisfaction with elections and reduce negative campaigning; there is little evidence that either has occurred in places that (like Australia) have adopted IRV. The article then criticizes a variety of arguments made by IRV opponents.

Keywords: instant runoff voting, elections

Suggested Citation

Lewyn, Michael, Two Cheers for Instant Runoff Voting (2012). 6 Phoenix L. Rev. 117 (2012), Touro Law Center Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 14-16, Available at SSRN:

Michael Lewyn (Contact Author)

Touro University - Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center ( email )

225 Eastview Drive
Central Islip, NY 11722
United States

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