Instant-runoff voting (IRV), also known as the alternative vote (AV), transferable vote, (single-seat) ranked choice voting (RCV), or preferential voting, is a voting system used to elect a single candidate from a field of more than two candidates. It is a preferential voting system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, rather than voting for a single candidate. Ballots are initially counted for each elector's first choice candidate. If a candidate secures more than half of the votes, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate in last place loses, and votes for that candidate are added to the totals of the candidate ranked next on each ballot. This process repeats until one candidate wins by obtaining more than half the votes. In the final "instant runoff," the winner always has majority support of those voters who indicated a preference for one or more of the finalists.
IRV has the effect of avoiding split votes when multiple candidates earn support from like-minded voters. For example, suppose there are two similar candidates A & B, and a third opposing candidate C, with vote totals of 35% for candidate A, 25% for B and 40% for C. In a plurality voting system, candidate C may win with 40% of the votes, even though 60% of electors prefer either A or B. Alternatively, voters are pressured to choose the seemingly stronger candidate of either A or B, despite personal preference for the other, in order to help ensure the defeat of C. With IRV, the electors backing B as their first choice can rank A second, which means candidate A will win by 60% to 40% over C despite the split vote in first choices.
Instant-runoff voting is used in national elections in several countries. For example, it is used to elect members of the Australian House of Representatives and most Australian state legislatures, the president of India, members of legislative councils in India, the President of Ireland, and the parliament in Papua New Guinea. The system is also used in local elections around the world, as well as by some political parties (to elect internal leaders) and private associations. IRV is described in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (under the name "preferential voting").
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