Let me start with a couple of premises/assertions.
Infighting within the voting reform community stands in the way of wider adoption of alternative voting.
If FairVote accepted a Condorcet-compliant version of Ranked Choice as an option, they would make a lot faster progress in replacing “Choose-one” voting, because they would eliminate a large amount of resistance from the voting reform community, without bothering RCV advocates in the least.
Most people agree that if a candidate would beat every other candidate if they ran against them one-on-one, that candidate should be elected. Some people think this should outweigh everything else, while some don’t.
FairVote has a very odd, and seemingly contradictory, position on all of this. My own reaction to their position is: “is that SERIOUSLY the hill you want to die on?” It really makes no sense at all that they are so uncompromising on this issue that would make a trivially tiny difference in actual outcomes of elections (and therefore campaign strategies), but would make a huge difference in reducing the number of people out there arguing against IRV rather than more productively directing their energy against Choose-one.
First, let’s clarify a couple things. When I say “IRV”, I mean the current ranked-ballot system that FairVote advocates, which is also known as Hare. You can call it RCV-Hare. In many contexts, “Ranked Choice” or “RCV” simply refer to his method, but here we have to be careful because Ranked Choice can apply to various Condorcet methods with ranked ballots.
Another method, "Bottom Two runoff" is very similar to Hare in almost all ways. Being a ranked ballot system, it could easily be referred to as Ranked Choice (or even IRV, for that matter.... but here let's assume IRV specifically refers to the Hare version). Bottom Two just has a minor tweak making it Condorcet compliant. FairVote could offer it as an option, and I’d predict it would meet with near zero resistance from outside their organization.
FairVote, though, has refused to do this, and they have been entirely contradictory regarding their reasons. They say, over and over on their site, that IRV is good because it almost always elects the Condorcet candidate (339 out of 340 elections). They say, over and over on their site, that IRV is good because it reduces polarization.
But then, when asked why they aren’t ok with Bottom two runoff, they say “IRV rewards those w/ strong 1st choice support. Bottom-2 rewards those who avoid polarizing stances. We like IRV since it encourages real stances, not just campaigning to avoid the bottom”
Let’s break this down, and show just how contradictory they are.
“IRV rewards those w/ strong 1st choice support.”
Isn’t that precisely what Choose-one, the main system they are against, does? So they are basically saying, “Rewarding first choice is the cause of all problems, and our system fixes those problems. But it still rewards first choice, and that’s good.” What?
“Bottom-2 rewards those who avoid polarizing stances.”
Isn’t that just another way of saying that Bottom-two runoff doesn’t encourage polarization? And yet their site is chock full of arguments that polarization is a bad thing, and IRV reduces polarization. So, again.... what?
“We like IRV since it encourages real stances”
I’m not really sure what qualifies as a “real stance”. Do they mean an extreme stance? A polarized stance? A one-sided stance that appeals to some faction while angering the others? One that fails to find the nuance, fails to find a middle ground?
They really need to clarify this. I have a hard time seeing how they can clarify the meaning of "real stance," without just saying that polarization is a positive (despite all the places they say that polarization is a negative).
To me this sounds like the exact opposite of what they say is positive in just about every other page of their web site.
“not just campaigning to avoid the bottom”
“Just” campaigning to avoid the bottom? “Just”? Are they really suggesting that by changing the method to bottom-2, which would have only changed the outcome in 1 out of 440 elections, that it will change campaign strategy that much, so that candidates will now have a sole priority that is completely different from what it would be with the other method? That's pretty extreme..
The logic behind what they are saying is utterly ridiculous. FairVote is well aware that the one RCV election that didn’t elect the Condorcet winner (Burlington 2009) is the one that has produced by far the most criticism for RCV. While I am fully of the opinion that that election was a very close race, and it wasn’t THAT big an error in the grand scheme of things…. I can’t see any reasonable argument that it picked the “right” winner.
The most charitable interpretation of what the are saying is, we want to reduce the polarization and "favor first choice only" attributes of Choose-one, but EVER SO SLIGHTLY less than we could. Because .... uhhh.... just because.
Finally, the overall irony: FairVote says that RCV encourages compromise, nuance, and give-and-take. Accepting Bottom-Two runoff as a reasonable option would be a perfect way to practice what they preach.
Here are some articles where FairVote argues FOR Condorcet and/or AGAINST polarization: