Misinformation on Instant Runoff Voting by The League of Women Voters of Oakland

I just came across this flier from their Oakland branch, which contains numerous common falsehoods about Instant Runoff Voting.
IMPORTANT FACT TO REMEMBER: The person in office can be either good or bad after being elected by either the Primary or Ranked-Choice Voting system; don’t blame the voting system for the actions of the person in office.
But the voting system has a tremendous impact on the quality of election outcomes. According to Bayesian Regret figures from a Princeton math PhD named Warren D. Smith, who has been studying voting systems for at least 14 years and was a prominent figure in William Poundstone's book Gaming the Vote, the choice of voting system appears to be the biggest single factor affecting the quality of leaders.

As far as we can tell, the authors of this flier have no particular expertise in voting theory, and likely could not even describe or define Bayesian Regret, or numerous other core election theory concepts.
HOW TO VOTE STRATEGICALLY: Vote your favorite as your first choice, regardless of his or her likelihood to win, then choose from the front runners for your second and third choices. If your first choice is eliminated early, your second and third choices of the front runners still have you in a strong position to help choose the winner.
This is simply false. Here's a short layman-friendly video explanation by Andy Jennings, a co-founder of The Center for Election Science, whose PhD thesis was on the mathematics of voting.

This scenario happened in Burlington, Vermont, in their 2009 mayoral race. A group of Republicans, who unsurprisingly favored the Democrat over the Progressive, got their least favorite of those three when the Progressive won. But if just a handful of them had insincerely ranked the Democrat in first place, then the Democrat would have won instead. I.e. voting for their favorite candidate hurt them. Sincerity was not their best strategy. Here's a deeper explanation for the mathematically inclined, describing why strategy is always advisable, even if you don't know whether it's going to help in a particular election.

Later in the flier, the authors hammer home this falsehood even further:
Strategic voting: a voter can vote for the candidate they really like best. Near election
time it becomes clear who the front-runners are. But voters can still give their first vote
to the candidate they really like, even if they think he/she won’t win. Then they can
decide which of the front runners to give their second and third votes to. Each choice
empowers the voter. There are no games here. We each have one vote, but we can
indicate backup choices according to our sincere preferences. That’s the best way to
make sure our votes count, and Oakland gets the mayor, city council members, and
school board leaders we deserve.
As we've now seen, virtually everything in this paragraph is incorrect.
[IRV] makes it possible to elect local officials by majority vote without the need
for a separate run-off election.
IRV does not guarantee the election of a "majority winner". It is possible for Bad to win even though a huge majority of voters preferred Good to Bad—even if Good got many more first-place votes. Here's an example, with the other two candidates arbitrarily named X and Y.
35%                   X > Good > Y > Bad
17%                   Bad > Good > Y > X
32%                   Good > Y > Bad > X
16%                   Y > Bad > Good > X
That is, 35% of the voters prefer X over Good over Y over Bad, and so on. Note that Good has almost twice as many first-place votes as Bad (32% vs. 17%). And Good is preferred to Bad by a huge 67% of the voters. But Bad wins. Don't take our word for it—count it for yourself.
Why Ranked-Choice Voting is a good thing
• More people vote in November than in a June primary so decisions are made by a larger proportion of citizens. RCV provides instant runoff.
• More people of color, less-well off, younger, with lower-level jobs vote in November; in June the majority of voters are white, older, well-off, well-educated. 
This has nothing to do with IRV. This is about the date that the elections are held.
Candidates outside the mainstream have a chance—third party candidates in partisan elections;
Actually, IRV has produced two-party domination everywhere it has seen long-term widespread use. E.g. in Australia. By contrast, in most of the 27 or so countries that use a traditional top-two runoff (like Oakland and other Bay Area cities used to have) there are three or more successful parties. So one could argue that IRV explicitly hurts minor parties.
• Saves money.
o Eliminates the $800,000 cost of a June primary. 
From Warren Smith:
Yes, one round is cheaper and easier than two, but with IRV, that one round is more complicated and it cannot be done on ordinary "dumb totalizing" voting machines, whereas both rounds in delayed runoff can be done with such machines; and IRV is non-additive (no such thing as "precinct subtotals") and non-monotonic; and the second round in delayed runoff often does not happen. (Top-two runoff also is non-monotonic, but each of its two rounds, in isolation, of course is monotonic.) In view of those facts, it is not at all clear to us that IRV actually saves money. And in any event, the money spent on elections is negligible compared to other government expenditures, so it is more important to get quality in elections, than to save money. Thus "saving" money would be a false economy that surely would actually cost more in bad government than it saved in election expenditures. For example (2006), a pro-IRV group was recently arguing that Oakland California should switch to IRV because each runoff election under the old delayed-runoff scheme cost Oakland "hundreds of thousands of dollars," which was their way of saying $200,000. However, they did not mention that Oakland's annual budget is over $1 billion so that the "cost savings" they were lobbying for was of order 0.02% fractionally. Surely there are superior ways to save Oakland's money! Also they did not mention that it cost (neighboring, comparable size) San Francisco $1,600,000 to upgrade its voting machines to run IRV two years before. So the payback time required to justify this cost "savings," as you can see, would be very large, perhaps 30-40 years assuming elections every 2 years and runoffs required half the time. Quite probably Oakland would be re-replacing its machines before that time, in which case the costs never would be repaid.
The LWV's next argument:
o Candidates raise money for only one campaign, not two. 
This has nothing to do with IRV per se. You could just eliminate runoffs altogether, and not adopt IRV, and you'd still have this savings.
Who opposes RCV?
• Voters who are unhappy about the candidate who won. The problem is the candidate, not the election system. A two-candidate runoff can also result in a winner many voters do not like in office.
I repeat, the voting system has a major impact on average voter satisfaction with election results. It is completely reasonable to put some probabilistic blame on IRV. However, one saving grace in this instance is the fact that the traditional top-two runoff system is also among the most terrible voting systems ever devised, and so one cannot confidently say whether things would have been much better with the old system. We can, however, say that things would have likely turned out much better with any of the other alternative voting systems: Score Voting, Approval Voting, Borda, or Condorcet voting.

They also forgot to mention the majority of election theory experts with math and/or political science credentials. IRV is widely considered to be the worst of the five commonly discussed alternative voting systems.

Clay Shentrup
Co-founder, The Center for Election Science

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