Mathematics expert: IRV not the answer

A mathematician who's spent years analyzing voting systems told a Minneapolis audience Tuesday that instant runoff voting is not the answer.

IRV allows voters to rank the candidates for a given office in order of preference. Winners are determined in a series of simulated runoff elections. IRV supporters say it's a better reflection of public opinion than so-called "plurality" elections, where whoever gets the most votes wins.

But Donald Saari, a mathematics professor at the University of California Irvine, told an audience at the University of Minnesota's Institute for Math and its Applications that IRV suffers from many of the same problems as traditional plurality elections.

"We haven't gotten rid of the cancer. The plurality vote determines who's going to go to the runoff. So, if we have a system that's distorted and gets us the wrong two people for the runoff, we're in trouble," Sarri says.

Minneapolis will use instant runoff voting for its municipal elections this year. There's a referendum on the ballot in St. Paul to switch to the system, too.

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