Diamon attempts to disprove the claim that IRV always results in a winner selected by a majority by pointing to Michael Brennan's 46% support in the Portland mayoral race. In the traditional system voters can make but one selection in any particular election. There may be 15 options from which to choose, but each voter can select but one. In IRV voters can say something about all 15. In the Portland mayoral election not everyone ranked all 15 candidates and so Brennan was left off of many ballots. But counting against him the votes of those who could have but chose not to rank Brennan or just forgot to is like counting the votes of those who do not vote at all. A one-selection-only election is not invalidated because only 46% of those eligible to participate cast ballots; and IRV is not fatally flawed because only 46% rank a particular candidate. In both cases the problem is the electorate, not the system. And when the final votes were counted Brennan was credited with getting 55%.
Even if Diamon's argument has a grain of truth in it his sarcasm obscures a greater truth. Without IRV in a 15-way race the winner might get no more than 10% of the vote. In actual practice Brennan had but 26.5% after the first tabulation. Being able to say that Brennan was supported by even 46% is a major improvement over either 10% or 26%.
IRV addresses the phenomenon of defensive voting in OSO elections — people voting not for what they want but against what they do not want. Mention the Green Party and people accuse Ralph Nader of helping Bush get elected in 2000 — and vow to never again contribute to a vote getting split. Small party candidates, under-funded independents, recently in Maine even Democrats are being looked at as spoilers who should not be supported. The biggest objection to third parties is not their ideology but that voting for someone who "can't win" might allow the election of the very one most not-wanted — the Nader effect And so people who actually liked Jill Stein voted for Barrack Obama because they really DISliked Mitt Romney; people who liked Cynthia Dill voted for Angus King because they disliked Charlie Summers. In IRV people are free to vote for Jill Stein or Ron Paul or Libby Mitchell without calamitous consequences as long as they also say who they prefer second, third, etc.
This in turn can lead to more healthy outcomes. First, the true measure of support is revealed. It may turn out that Green Party or Libertarian candidates have not just 5% present support but 20% present support, 15% of which never gets cast when people have to vote defensively. When voters see that voting for a Green does not directly contribute to the election of a Republican (or voting for a Libertarian does not lead to the election of a tax-and-spend Democrat) voters are empowered to vote their hopes, not their fears. As previously "fringe" candidates gain traction they get more attention from the media and voters and start getting taken seriously, as they should be. When the will of the people is the goal of an election, the will is better served when the people have more from which to chose. It may turn out that a majority are still happy with the two big parties and little will change. However, it may turn out that a critical mass actually prefers a "fringe" candidate quite a bit when it is safe to express that preference, something almost impossible to realize in OSO elections. And in learning this, in time we have a better chance of ending up with leaders acceptable to a majority, rather than time after time getting someone acceptable only to the largest block of a fractured electorate (LePage), or someone seen as the lesser of evils, as the beneficiaries of defensive voting are often called.
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