IRV encourages voters to honestly rank candidates on the ballot instead of gambling on strategic “bullet votes”.
Upon entering the voting booth in an election for Alderman At-Large, every voter must unwillingly play a game. The name of the game is “How many candidates should I vote for?”. The rules allow every voter to vote for up to four candidates — the same as the number to be elected — but figuring out whether to use one, two, three, or all four votes can be a complicated and error-prone task.
Consider my dilemma if my four favorite candidates are A, B, C, and D, in that order. If I vote for all four I might cause B, C, or D to win a seat at the expense of my top choice A. Or I could put all my eggs in one basket by voting only for A — also known as “bullet voting” — leaving my three other votes unused. Or I might be best served by voting for only A and B or only for A, B, and C. In sum, I have four separate strategies and determining which is my best option requires an accurate prediction of how everyone else is likely to vote.
As a result, our voting system benefits political “insiders”, who are best positioned to predict the likely winners in advance, and puts average voters, who don’t have the time to research the optimal strategy, at a disadvantage. Regardless of the election outcome, we are left with the impression that some are gaming to the system to the detriment of others. Perhaps this helps explain why municipal elections see such low voter turnout.
But under Choice Voting (IRV for electing multiple candidates), I can honestly rank candidates on the ballot in order of preference — A, B, C — without worrying that a later rank could hurt the chances of an earlier rank. If candidate A needs my full vote to get elected, my vote will count towards A. If A only needs half my vote to win, the other half will count towards B. If B doesn’t have enough votes to also win, that half will instead count towards counts towards C.
With Choice Voting, we can wave goodbye to rampant bullet voting and put everyone on a more level playing field in the voting booth. We can make the act of voting less like a casino game and more like an expression of our true democratic preferences.