Total Vote Runoff: A Majority-Maximizing Form of Ranked Choice Voting

I’ve posted another paper on SSRN. Here’s its abstract:

Total Vote Runoff (TVR) is an electoral system designed to be identical to Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), which is the most commonly understood and implemented form of Ranked Choice Voting in the United States, except for one key detail. Like IRV, TVR sequentially eliminates the weakest candidate on the ranked-choice ballot when no candidate is ranked first on a majority of ballots. Unlike IRV, however, TVR identifies the weakest candidate to be eliminated based on the total votes each candidate receives on all the ballots, rather than just the number of first-place votes (as IRV does). A candidate’s total votes from each ballot is defined as the number of other candidates the candidate is ranked higher than on the ballot—as being ranked higher than another candidate is equivalent to securing a vote against that candidate, given that ranked-choice ballots can be conceived as mathematically equivalent to a round-robin election among all the candidates on the ballot. TVR has the advantage, compared to IRV, of always electing a candidate whom a majority of voters prefer to each other candidate on the ballot and thus who would be the undefeated winner of the round-robin election. More generally, TVR improves upon the instant runoff nature of the IRV process by using all the information from each ranked-choice ballot, rather than just first-choice preferences, in order to determine which candidate most deserves to be eliminated in the instant runoff procedure. A comparison of TVR and IRV in the context of the most recent midterm elections in the United States shows that TVR potentially could perform better than IRV in redressing the increased polarization affecting American politics, resulting in elections that better represent the preferences that a majority of voters record with their ballots.

This paper will be published in the University of New Hampshire Law Review (an earlier draft was presented at its symposium). As with the Self-Districting paper posted earlier today, I very much welcome comments on this paper while it continues to go through the editing process. Moreover, this paper like my other work on alternative electoral systems are part of a larger project on the relationship of democratic and constitutional theory to electoral system design, including in particular the egalitarian foundation for majority rule as well as the alternative means of specifying majority rule within a constitutional republic committed to the basic principle of popular sovereignty. I welcome feedback and input on the larger project as well as on this particular paper.

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