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Electoral reform: Second choice or second-class?

RANKED-CHOICE voting is not new. Versions of it, such as the alternative vote system or the supplementary vote system, are used from Australia to Ireland. London’s mayor is chosen by supplementary vote, and Britons this year considered, but decided against, using the alternative vote for parliamentary elections. But in America only a few cities, from Massachusetts to Minnesota, have toyed with the idea. For most Americans, the method remains an eccentricity used only for the Oscars.That may be about to change. Next month Portland, Maine, will have its first ranked-choice mayoral election. More notably, San Francisco, which adopted the system back in 2004, will hold its first mayoral election in which the system is likely to decide the winner (since the victor last time ran almost unopposed). Three of its neighbours—Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro—have also recently adopted it.In a ranked-choice system, voters select three candidates: first-choice, second and third. If any candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, he wins, as in any other election. But if nobody gets a majority, the candidate who won the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and his supporters’ second choices are added to the counts of the other candidates. If there is still no majority winner, another candidate is eliminated, and his ballots are recounted. And so on, until somebody passes 50%….

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