Monday, March 16, 2009

IRV Fails In Its Own Backyard

Burlington Vermont just elected their mayor, which wouldn't be big news, except that Burlington is the home town of one of IRVs largest proponents, Terrill G. Bouricius, and he has persuaded his town to use that system. Courtesy of the Center For Range Voting, we show how this election perfectly demonstrates the problems that IRV causes; the ones that Bouricius and Fair Vote insist are "unimportant", "unlikely", and "uninteresting". Namely:

  • Failure to elect a majority winner: the eventual winner, Bob Kiss, would have lost to Andy Montroll in a one-on-one election. In fact, Montroll would have beaten any other candidate in a one-on-one election.
  • Failure in the face of a spoiler candidate: if Wright hadn't been in the election, then Montroll would have won.
  • Failure of participation: if a few hundred Wright voters had stayed home and not voted, they would have gotten a better outcome (their 2nd choice, Montroll, instead of Kiss.)
  • Failure by non-monotonicity: if a few hundred Wright voters had instead voted for Kiss, Kiss would have lost (and Montroll wold have won).

The first, I can almost forgive; it's not as if Condorcet's method is perfect either, and IRV advocates can make a deliberate choice between simplicity and effectiveness. The second makes me furious, as IRV advocates prey on Democrat's fear of Gore-Florida-2000-like scenarios, claiming IRV will completely fix problems with Nader-like spoilers; but this election exemplifies how this is not the case. The third, considering the already embarassingly low voter turnouts in the US, is disgusting; we cannot allow people another excuse to stay home on election day. Finally, "non-monotonicity" gets brushed off by IRV advocates as being too "academic" to be concerned over; sure, it's a somewhat complicated concern, but it's a serious concern, which this election shows.

Considering all these failures--all the ones that the Center for Range Voting has warned about and Fair Vote has repeatedly brushed off--I'm disgusted that Fair Vote is pretending everything is fine. Why--how--could you continue to support IRV in the face of this overwhelming evidence from your own home town? Is it ego? Or maybe... it's the money? Yes, in addition to being a "senior analyst" for Fair Vote, Mr. Bouricius is one of the founders of Election Solutions, Inc., who sell the software that Burlington uses to run its elections.


  1. I don't think Kiss would lose to Wright. Instead, Montroll would win against Wright or Kiss head-to-head. I'm pretty sure that's the case.

  2. Thanks brokenladder; I've edited the post.

  3. "Or maybe... it's the money?" Hmmm. The software company could just as easily sell some other voting system, though, so that doesn't really explain why they still promote IRV.

    I guess Approval or Score don't really require software, though?