Suppose we are running a Ranked Choice vote between 6 candidates:
- Harrison Ford
- Carrie Fisher
- Mark Hammill
- James Earl Jones
- Frank Oz
- George Lucas
There are a lot of website that propose the rules - I've chosen at random:
But really, they're all pretty similar. The basic algorithm is:
First choices are tallied. If no candidate has the support of a majority of voters, the candidate with the least support is eliminated. A second round of counting takes place, with the votes of supporters of the eliminated candidate now counting for their second choice candidate. After a candidate is eliminated, he or she may not receive any more votes.
This process of counting and eliminating is repeated until one candidate has over half the votes. This is equivalent to continuing until there is only one candidate left. However it is possible, with voter truncation, for the process to continue until there is only one candidate left, who does not end up with more than half the votes.
The tie breaking rules, however, are less consistent. One option (from the above site) is:
LOGIC: If the tied candidates combined have fewer [first place] votes than the next highest candidate, the entire tied set can be eliminated at once. Logically deterministic, but may not apply
There are other options, but from the reading I've done, they tend to be based on the first place votes. Whoever has the fewest first place votes is eliminated, if there are multiple, one is either chosen at random, or potentially they are all eliminated.
So, what happens in the following scenario? This is a bit contrived, but actually came up in a small vote.
Voter A 1. Harrison Ford 2. Mark Hammill 3. Frank Oz
Voter B 1. Carrie Fisher 2. Mark Hammill 3. James Earl Jones
Voter C 1. George Lucas 2. Mark Hammill 3. James Earl Jones
Just eyeballing the results, it seems like Mark Hammill should win, since there was no consensus for first place. However, following the rules specified above, I believe he would be eliminated, and the winner would randomly be George, Harrison, or Carrie.
So, a few questions - am I interpreting the rules correctly? Is this a non-issue, because in the larger elections that this was designed for, you don't tend to run into this problem? Was ranked choice voting in fact designed to favor someone who got at least 1 first place vote over someone who got all the 2nd place votes? And finally, is there a better tie breaking algorithm covered to handle this issue?