Proponents of ranked choice voting (RCV) often claim that voters using approval voting will “bullet vote” only for their favorite candidate. But even if that were true, it would result in the same winner as RCV in 96% of elections.

As of September 2021, there have been 440 single-winner RCV elections since 2004. In only 18 of those was there a come-from-behind winner. So in 422 of those 440, the winner was the same candidate who would have won with approval voting if everyone bullet voted. Here’s the data, courtesy of RCV advocacy organization FairVote.

The 18 come-from-behind RCV victories since 2004.

The Condorcet criterion is wrong. It is logically proven that an electorate can prefer X even if a majority of its members prefer Y to X.

For example, suppose we ask Americans to vote for the 2012 and 2016 president as a package deal. Your two options are:

I have no idea how this would actually play out, but in principle it’s quite conceivable that a great majority would choose option #2, even if a majority would prefer Obama to Trump head-to-head and simultaneously prefer Trump to Clinton head-to-head.

This example helps us to see that even if majoritarianism feels intuitively right, it’s logically untenable. The mere fact that such a contradiction is even theoretically possible here is proof of that. Instead we want to focus on maximizing expected satisfaction.

Clay Shentrup

Advocate of Score Voting and Approval Voting. Software engineer. Father. Husband. American.

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