Some of you have seen the classic Life cereal commercial that has a boy toddler conned by his older brothers into eating a bowl full of “good for you” cereal. The older brothers don’t trust the new food, and the toddler is picky. “He won’t eat it. He hates everything.” To their surprise, “Mikey likes it!” There is also a remake (this time Mikey’s a little girl).    

Here at Rank the Vote OK, we’re confident that instant runoff voting (IRV) will make our democracy healthier. But it is a new way to do things, and that can cause some understandable hesitation, even skepticism. Maybe you don’t know much about it, but you’ve noticed the old plurality system isn’t all that great either. With plurality, the person with the most votes wins, so someone can win an election without the support of most of the voters.

Or maybe you know a little about IRV and don’t think you’d like it. Maybe you worry that it’s needlessly confusing, just another “test” to make it harder for people to vote. If that’s so, you might be encouraged to know that in a poll of Queens voters after that city’s first use of IRV, almost everyone (95%) said filling out the ballot was simple—in fact, 80% said it was “very simple.”      
Or perhaps you’ve heard detractors say that instant runoff voting is some kind of scam, like giving people extra votes. It’s not: everyone still gets one vote, but that vote is automatically reassigned to a voter’s next choice if that voter’s preferred candidate is eliminated. That’s basically how runoff elections work: one or more candidates is eliminated and then everyone, even those who originally voted for an eliminated candidate, gets to choose between the remaining candidates. U.S. courts have repeatedly affirmed that IRV treats voters equally, and is consistent with the bedrock principle of “one person, one vote.”

MAYBE the scary closet monster is just the shadow of your favorite shirt, once you get a closer look. So let’s find out how people who have tried it feel about it.

San Francisco voted for instant runoff voting for local offices in 2002. After the first couple of IRV elections, a poll was taken. Respondents preferred the new system by a 3 to 1 margin versus the old runoff system. This is despite the fact that some of those polled were blindsided by the new system. They did not know until election day it would be used.

Maine voters voted twice to implement instant runoff voting (the second time followed a legislative challenge). The second vote was concurrent with its use, so they would’ve been using instant runoff ballots as they voted, on those same ballots, to continue using the new system!    

Not everyone will like instant runoff voting. Some people don’t like Life Cereal. But many people who have actually tried instant runoff voting think it’s a good system. Be like Mikey. Give it a chance. You just might like it!