Two separate varieties of ranked choice voting are in use. The Oscars elect a single winner. The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, continually since 1940, has used ranked choice voting to elect its 9 member city council. The Cambridge method of electing a body of more than one official is light-years superior to any single winner system.
Too often the single winner system keeps electing the same color and nationality as mayor, as governor, as president. Moreover the single winner system keeps electing the same guy again and again and again, mainly because the guy uses his/her power base to solicit vast amounts of political donations and/or kickbacks from the business community. Then he/she turns around and buys/rents the press to say “I’m so great!”
Cambridge, Massachusetts and similar cities are barely on the same planet. With the Cambridge electoral system, all of the political money in the world can’t seem to buy anyone a majority on the City Council. Sure it can buy some bigshot one seat, but what financial good is a 1 to 8 vote against a pet proposal going to do him/her? As a result, successful election campaigns have been generally affordable in Cambridge.
When a whole city council is determined by transferable vote, large minority populations regularly get proportional representation on the city council. Imagine a city council where four or five out of nine members are usually women, where Asian, Hispanic and African-American constituencies have representation, where an occasional student gets on the council and where an LGBT council member often wins a seat.
Furthermore, no seat is safe. Just because you might be courting the LGBT voting bloc doesn’t mean that two other legitimate LGBT candidates won’t also be running for that voting bloc and for that seat. In general, political corruption isn’t ever going to get anybody re-elected.
Next, Cambridge has near-zero mudslinging. If twenty candidates are running for nine seats and if you sling the mud at one of them, you might damage one candidate out of twenty but some of that mud will stick to you, and then you’ll probably lose. At least in Cambridge, the winning strategy is usually to discuss with voters where the city needs to go, and in exquisite detail. As a result, Cambridge is a well-defined city. The city just happens to have approximately zero unemployment, a good subway system, good bike routes, good schools and an AAA municipal bond rating. Moreover, political corruption is fairly rare. Once in the past 78 years a city employee fixed some parking tickets, but that wasn’t directly the City Council’s fault.
This system has been tried elsewhere, there’s a long history of it being tried, and it has always been good for real democracy. I doubt that there has been one failure ever of the system. The only known failure is that the local crooks will spend vast sums of money to put a revoke of the new voting system on the ballot, just to go back to the old form of crooked political machine politics and steal vast amounts of money from the people. The crooks regularly aligned themselves with the city’s racists in the early 20th century, yelling that you don’t want your lily-white city council polluted by a black (gasp!) city council member sitting right next to them.
Cambridge has survived five separate revoke ballot questions, all well-funded.
I have one political quibble. Cambridge’s system doesn’t allow for a recount, because when one candidate wins a seat, the excess votes beyond what she/he needed are RANDOMLY split among the voters’ second choices. I also have a successful solution to this quibble. If all votes are divided up into one million microvotes, then when one candidate wins a seat the microvotes can all be PROPORTIONALLY split among the voters’ second choices. Problem solved. Game over.
So, if you want real democracy, do multiple-office proportional representation. It’s that simple.
Do it in your student council, because it’s only right. Do it in your union local if they let you. Do it in your church business meeting. Do it in a neighborhood council. Get away with real democracy every single time and place that they let you. That’s a path by which you can win actual democracy and defeat corporate corruption.