Debunking the Myths


Polls of voters where IRV is used, and studies of ballots used, show voters understand IRV extremely well, possibly better than the “normal” runoff system Memphis uses!

  • 2013-2014 Rutgers Eagleton Poll of 7 RCV and 7 non-RCV cities:
  • Over 90% of voters reported RCV was simple
  • 2013 Edison Research poll of Minneapolis voters:
    • 85% of voters found it “very simple” or “somewhat simple
  • 2014—in each of the 24 RCV elections Nov. 2014, over 99% of voters cast a valid ballot
  • 2014 Rutgers Eagleton Poll, voters in California RCV cities reported they understood RCV BETTER than Calilfornia’s “Top Two” runoff system, which is like Memphis’ in that the top two first-round winners advance to a runoff


Even with voter education and other start-up costs, IRV will still SAVE MONEY, and the savings will ONLY GROW OVER TIME.

  • There will be some one-time costs for the first time out, but SCEC Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips estimates it will still save money because we will eliminate an entire election
  • And the savings will increase after the first election, because voter education costs will go down.
  • None of the cities using IRV spent more on start-up/voter education costs than they would have if they’d had to run two elections. (Source: Fairvote,
  • Example: 2010—first-time statewide judicial election in NC—conducted using existing budget, w/ no extra money required. (Source: Statement of Gary Bartlett, former NC State Board of Elections Director,…/0B3K2g6lIQMWsUV9wMjBiX0JmWjg/view)


By a more than 6-1 margin, more voters will have their votes counted in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the IRV election than would have their votes counted in the regular runoff.

  • It is true that IF (and only if) a particular voter’s 1st place, 2nd place, AND 3rd place candidates are all eliminated after multiple rounds of voting (at least four rounds), their ballot could theoretically no longer be counted in later rounds. This is called an “exhausted ballot”
  • This is rare. Studies show that about 90% of voters do NOT have this happen. 
  •…Compare this to Memphis, where turnout drops by about 80% between 1st round and runoff. (Linda Phillips Powerpoint: 2015 election-turnout dropped from 28% to 5%)
  • This dropoff varied by district in Memphis—in 2015, turnout in City Council runoffs dropped off between 67% to 84%, depending on the district [Compare…/Vie…/Item/745 (SCEC Summary Report, 10/8/15 Election) with…/Vie…/Item/769 (SCEC Summary Report for 11/19/15 Runoff)]


This is simply untrue.

  • In an IRV election, if a candidate doesn’t have a lot of 1st place votes, he is eliminated
  • A voter’s 2nd place vote is only counted after their first choice is eliminated
  • A candidate with few 1st place votes will be eliminated early


Most results will likely be known election night, with the rest within a few days. Contrast this with the current system, where voters wait 6 weeks!

  • Most jurisdictions using ranked choice voting report unofficial results on election night.
  • Per SCEC Administrator Phillips, first-round results for all races (including ones where there is no winner after the first round) will be posted election night. That was enough to decide the election in about half of the City Council races in 2015
  • Also per Administrator Phillips, and based on the experience in Minneapolis, even with a manual count, we should have the remaining results within 3 or so days

▪️Is IRV Constitutional?

VOLUNE 67, AMERICAN LAW REPORTS (6th edition 2011, updated online through 2018)  

Validity of Runoff Voting Election Methodology

Depending on state statutes and local rules and ordinances, in certain state and regional elections if no one wins an absolute majority of the votes or at least a certain plurality, there has to be a runoff election, usually between the two top vote-getters in the first round. Of course, this entails an unanticipated expense for the locality, may result in fewer voters because of “voter fatigue,” and leaves the election’s outcome in doubt until after the second round of voting. Moreover, even in areas in which a plurality of voters is all that is needed to win, this leaves a bad taste in the mouth since, depending on the number of candidates, the winner has amassed only a small fraction of the total votes.

Available online via Westlaw