Continued use of the truly awful Plurality voting method is the single largest obstacle (yes, even more serious than ballot access) to any other party being able to effectively compete with the two old, declining parties.  But no Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) method works well either.  The states of Alaska and Maine switched to IRV (Instant Runoff Voting) in 2016, but there has been no discernable benefit for Libertarians or anyone else.  It behooves us to better understand this problem, “get on the same page” and advocate a solution that actually does work

First, it would be good to understand the terminology.  There are some 50 or 60 different RCV methods.  What people usually mean when they say “RCV” is Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV) which happens to be the worst of the RCV methods.  It is now known that Approval Voting (AV) functions somewhat better than the best possible RCV method, but even AV still isn’t very good.  Fortunately, other voting methods are now known which work far better than AV, therefore far, far better than any RCV method.

As a physicist and IT professional, I have researched voting methods for the past 14 years.  It is a trickier problem than it appears to be at first.  I, too, harbored the belief that one of the RCV methods would be best, but that turned out to be just plain wrong.

Plurality restricts voters to identifying just the one candidate they think is best, which is not sufficient data to enable making good choices.  In most elections, Plurality strongly motivates voters to vote insincerely (vote for the lesser evil).  So, Plurality collects too little info and very often that info is bogus!

IRV is identical to Plurality for two-candidate elections and achieves only a very small improvement for more than two candidates.  It allows voters to also say which candidate they think is second (and possibly third) best.  But that additional information does not help much with identifying the “correct” winner.  The correct winner is the candidate whose election would result in the greatest satisfaction totaled for all voters.  IRV is an iterative eliminations method and, incredibly, it ignores the additional information it does collect when deciding which candidate to eliminate next.  IRV can easily blunder and eliminate the candidate which should be the winner!  However, allowing a second choice does somewhat alleviate the vote-for-the-lesser-evil motivation.

The single data item most helpful to identifying the correct winner is (no surprise) each voter’s choice for the best candidate.  The second most helpful single data item is each voter’s choice of the worst candidate.  After the best and worst candidates, very few voters have any additional information to provide, and when they do, it improves decision-making very little.  Voting methods which empower voters to both vote for candidates they favor and against candidates they oppose can be about 4.8 times better than Plurality and 3.6 times better than IRV in four-candidate elections!

Libertarians have long recognized the importance of empowering voters to say when they don’t like candidates.  That’s why NOTA (None Of The Above) is on every ballot.  However, NOTA is a “blunt instrument.”  It is a vote against all other candidates on the ballot.  The surgical precision of indicating the single worst candidate is far more helpful to identifying the correct winner.  There is no longer any need to have NOTA on the ballot since it is built into the voting method.

Any voting method which does not allow voters to register dissatisfaction for any candidate is doomed to sometimes commit the horrible blunder of electing a candidate that the majority of voters oppose!  That actually happens.  Pew Research polling data in 2016 clearly showed that a majority of voters disliked both Trump and Clinton, but Trump was nevertheless elected.  The same thing happened in 2020 when Biden won.

Two radically better voting methods were proposed in 2020.  The first is AADV (Approve, Approve, Disapprove Voting), which is the improved version of Approval Voting.  The second is BAWV (Best, Alternate, Worst Voting), which is the improved version of IRV.  Like IRV, BAWV is an iterative elimination method.

These two methods have almost the same (greatly improved) ability to consistently identify the correct winner in all kinds of elections.  Since AADV is very simple (simpler than IRV or BAWV), AADV is the preferred method to advocate.

AADV gives voters the option to Approve of either one or two candidates and to Disapprove of one.  Each candidate’s disapprovals subtract from its approvals.  The candidate having the highest (positive) net approval is the winner.  Think of it as conducting a separate yes/no referendum for each candidate.  The candidate that wins its referendum by the largest positive amount is the winner.

This complicated subject has been confusing people for 250 years; we have barely scratched the surface in this short article.  A comprehensive course on voting methods can be found here:   Complete details, including the academic papers and data can be found on the “Voting / Elections” page of my website at:

The opinions shared here do not necessarily represent the official position of the Libertarian Party. These editorial articles have been submitted by Libertarians across the country, and featuring these topics does not represent an endorsement of the content therein.

The opinions shared here do not necessarily represent the official position of the Libertarian Party. These editorial articles have been submitted by Libertarians across the country, and featuring these topics does not represent an endorsement of the content therein.