Why isn't the alternative vote standard for most nations?

  • 1
    Because the PR-STV system we have here in Ireland is better.
    – TRiG
    Jul 2, 2014 at 8:17
  • 3
    Can you link to a study that shows a majority of American voters support it? 'Muricans can be a very stick-in-the-mud about changing things. Jul 2, 2014 at 12:52
  • 1
    'Majority Support' is no guarantee of legislation in the US--for both good and bad reasons.
    – user1530
    Jul 2, 2014 at 15:56
  • Do you mean proportional rather than alternative?
    – Anixx
    Jul 2, 2014 at 17:58
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    I just noticed that said petition only has 12 signatures, and was created by YL. Your question is a little disingenuous. I'm going to let it slide, because I think there is some vid content here, but SO normally takes a dim view of advertising ones own stuff in the guise of a question. Jul 2, 2014 at 21:34

3 Answers 3


Voting is systems are, per the US Constitution, completely a matter for states to decide, not the federal government. As Article I Section 4 states:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof;

As such, the linked petition cannot be acted upon.

That said, the question then is: "Why don't the states adopt an alternative vote instead of a first-past the post?" There, you have a few factors, most of which boil down to incumbency.

  1. Incumbents write the rules. They won on a first-past the post system, and there is thus no incentive to change it.

  2. There is an implementation lag. If one state adopts it, but another doesn't, there could be adverse effects. A proportional voting scheme clearly hurts a state's influence, for example. Depending on the methodology employed, there could be issues.

  • 1
    This is a good answer, though it may be worth pointing out problems with instant runoff voting, e.g. it cannot guarantee a condorcet winner.
    – Publius
    Jul 5, 2014 at 23:50

Because, from the point of view of the people who have the power to change the voting system (Congress and state legislators), the status quo works just fine. It got them elected.

  • 1
    The truth is much more sinister than this pragmatism I am afraid. Jul 2, 2014 at 14:02

In the US there are 2 major parties. These parties are run by people who are chosen by those people who donate heavily to the party and campaigns. Those people have a business(and monetary) interest in keeping the 2 parties that are currently dominant parties in control of the government.

If you look at the roles of those donors you notice something familiar. Many of the names are the same. That is because both of the parties are beholden to the same interests. They all talk a big game but when you look at the number of big campaign promises that are actually fulfilled as promised you can see a similar trend. The ones that are acted on are the ones that are to the benefit of the big donors. Similarly when you see an elected official renege on a promise it is most likely in the favor of the big donors.

So the answer to the question is, because neither the GOP nor the DNC wants it to change. Both parties thrive by having the other as the primary boogie man. Neither party as any interest in sharing that power with anyone else.