CANDIDATE 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
Mike Duncan 52 48 51 x
Michael Steele 46 48 44 60 79 91 - wins
Katon Dawson 28 29 34 62 69 77
Saul Anuzis 22 24 24 31 20 x
Ken Blackwell 20 19 15 15 x
The essential elements of this process closely resemble those that govern instant runoff voting (IRV). IRV compresses multiple rounds of runoffs into a single act of voting by allowing voters to rank their choices. With IRV, voters have the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, but can vote without fear that ranking less favored candidates will harm the chances of their most preferred candidates. First choices are then tabulated, and if a candidate receives a majority of first choices, he or she is elected. If nobody has a clear majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoffs are simulated, using each voter's preferences indicated on the ballot. The candidate who received the fewest first place choices is eliminated.
IRV has had some notable backers over the years. One was President Barack Obama, who in 2002 was the prime sponsor of legislation to use IRV in primaries in Illinois. Another was Sen. John McCain, who in 2002 actively backed an effort to bring instant runoff voting to all state and federal elections in Alaska. IRV continues to build support, winning big in more than a dozen ballot measures (most recently last November with 71% in Memphis, Tennessee) and starting to gain support in state legislatures.
Just as Mike Duncan lost support during the RNC chair count, plurality voting is losing support in the United States. Ranked choice voting methods are poised to move into the majority - and regular use around the country. Oklahoma students, Hollywood movie stars, Iowa caucus goers, American Idol fans and Republican National committee members are among many who can vouch for the value of this change.
Rob Richie is FairVote's executive director. A FairVote analysist, David Segal, also is a Rhode Island state legislator.