Almost everywhere that has passed IRV in the U.S. continues to use IRV. Evidence suggests that voters in jurisdictions using IRV support it and want to continue using it.
Challenges to IRV (both in the courts and on the ballot) are often mounted precisely because IRV works. Typically, a repeal effort follows when the system is new, when a candidate loses in a close election, and in which there was some issue unrelated to IRV that voters are unhappy about.
Over the last 50 years, 23 local jurisdictions have adopted IRV, and only four have repealed it. The most recent repeal took place in 2010. Below is an overview of jurisdictions that historically used IRV but no longer use it:
- Ann Arbor, MI repealed IRV after a single use, when the system led to the election of its first African American mayor in 1975.
- Pierce County, WA repealed IRV in 2009 after a significant use in 2008 and a minor use for county auditor in 2009, when federal courts upheld the top two system, which became the default system in all Washington elections.
- Aspen, CO repealed IRV in 2010 after a single use, after election administration difficulties led to an expensive lawsuit.
- Burlington, VT repealed IRV in 2010 after two uses, both of which elected the same mayor. The repeal effort was seen as a referendum on their mayor, the only person who had ever won election under the system, following a scandal unrelated to IRV.
- Two cities in North Carolina adopted IRV under a statewide pilot program in 2007-2009 -- Cary and Hendersonville. Cary used IRV once and then did not renew its use of the pilot program. Hendersonville used IRV twice and then the pilot program itself expired, forcing them to return to their prior method of election.
- More than twenty U.S. cities used multi-winner IRV in the early 20th century, including New York, NY and Cincinnati, OH. All but one repealed IRV by the 1960s. Multi-winner ranked choice voting, also known as single transferable vote (STV), and in certain contexts as proportional representation (PR), saw remarkable success in the United States in the middle of the 20th century, partially built on the success of STV systems in Ireland, where STV adoption began in 1919. The movement was closely allied with the progressive movement of the time and had a number of successes. However, a backlash in the 1940s leveraged IRV’s success in electing diverse identities and viewpoints in order to create insecurity and ultimately push for repeal. Of the early-20th-century IRV cities, one has maintained continuous use (Cambridge, MA) and one has since passed IRV again (New York, NY).
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