IRV will save us time and money by eliminating the preliminary election.
A preliminary election is required five weeks before the general election when the number of candidates in the race is more than twice the number of seats — when more than 2 candidates run for Mayor, Ward Alderman, or School Committee or more than 8 run for Alderman At-Large.
According to the Somerville Elections Department, a preliminary election raises the cost of an election cycle by an additional $50,000. It also costs every voter time and energy to show up yet again to the polls. Despite the high price tag, preliminaries experience extremely low turnout, meaning a smaller number of people are making decisions that affect all of us.
Nevertheless, the preliminary election serves a very useful purpose: to eliminate potential spoiler candidates prior to the general. For example, if Gore, Bush, and Nader were all running in a general election, liberal voters might split their support between Gore and Nader, spoiling the election and causing Bush to win. However, a preliminary election would first narrow the field to two candidates, Gore and Bush. They would then face off in the general, where Gore would have a fair shot at winning.
IRV has all the benefits of holding both a preliminary and general election, but streamlines the process into a single election with one trip to the ballot box. An IRV election winnows the field of candidates automatically, rendering the preliminary unnecessary.
Returning to the race between Gore, Bush, and Nader, under IRV Nader supporters could rank Nader first and Gore second, voting their conscious while still indicating a backup in case Nader is eliminated. Had IRV been in place in the 2000 presidential election, Gore would have won Florida, because a majority of voters preferred him to Bush.