New Instant Runoff Procedures


ACS Bylaws currently specify that in elections for President-Elect or District Director, a preferential ballot is to be used, followed by an instant runoff, if no candidate receives a majority of cast votes, when there are three candidates for one open position. When there are four or more candidates, a separate mail ballot runoff election is required, if no candidate receives a majority of cast votes.

In the Fall, Council will be given an information copy ("yellow sheets") for the Petition on Election Procedures for President-Elect and District Director. This petition will change the elections procedures to be uniform when three or more candidates are on the ballot for President-Elect or District Director. Voters will use a preferential ballot. If a candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes cast, that candidate is declared elected. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, an "instant runoff" will be held.

The process for instant runoff will consist of eliminating the candidate with the lowest vote total and then transferring the votes for the eliminated candidate to the remaining candidates, based on the next-choice preferences on those ballots. If a ballot for an eliminated candidate does not specify a next-choice, that ballot will be discarded. The process will be repeated until one candidate receives a majority of counted ballots, and that candidate is declared elected.

The new election procedures will eliminate the time and expense of a separate mail, electronic, or hybrid ballot. Although, there are a number of different voting/election systems that could be used for ACS elections, the proposed system is consistent with ACS tradition as well as being a fair and economical alternative to a separate mail runoff. This proposed method is practiced in, among other countries, Ireland and Australia. Robert's Rules of Order states "…preferential voting is especially useful and fair in an election by mail if it is impractical to take more than one ballot. In such cases, it makes possible a more representative result than under a rule that a plurality shall elect." (Robert's Rules of Order, 10th Edition, p 411)

As a side note, the elections to fill Director-at-Large positions are different because such elections often seek to elect more than one person. In addition, the number of eligible voters (ACS Councilors) is smaller, so the expense is not as great as that for the election of President-Elect or District Director. Nevertheless, to ensure consistency and fairness, N&E is looking into proposing a similar, albeit more complicated, method for those elections in the future.

There are many references on voting systems and many web sites have references to literature.

P. Dasgupta, E. Maskin, Scientific American, March 2004, Vol. 290, p92.

Helpful links:

Get information about voting in Australia. Section 9 - Voting and Appendix E are especially relevant and give an example of vote counting.

Get information about voting in Ireland.

Get information about voting systems.

Example (after the Australian Election Procedures Document)

  Peter Debye Hermann Staudinger Marie Curie Irving Langmuir  
Count Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Total
First 1232 23.1% 1853 34.9% 1812 33.9% 432 8.1% 5340
Second 213 50.6% 195 46.3% 13 3.1% Eliminated   421
Total 1445 27.1% 2059 38.6% 1825 34.2%     5329
Third Eliminated   1010 79.2% 265 20.8%     1275
Total     3069 59.5% 2090 40.5%     5159

The chart shows that on the First Count, Langmuir was the lowest vote getter and was eliminated. Second place votes on 421 (first preference Langmuir) ballots were transferred. Not all of the ballots contained second choice preferences. Adding the transferred votes to the total resulted in the elimination of Debye and those votes were transferred based on their next choice preference. The Third Count resulted in the election of Staudinger.