Bob Bernick’s notebook: Utah GOP turns to IRV

Bernick Mug 01 is told that leaders of the Utah Republican Party plan to use Instant Run-off Voting at their online-only state nominating convention later this month.

If so, it would be a great innovation. In part because delegates won’t meet in a big hall to listen to speeches and then cast ballots. The convention will all be online, with video speeches by candidates and then remote ballot voting. IRV will speed this process up considerably.

This won’t be the first time IRV is used in a state GOP convention. In 2004 IRV was used when eight Republicans were running for governor, and it worked well.

And years ago then-GOP leaders used IRV in electing their party officers — kind of a test run at the time. That didn’t turn out so well for some of the “old guard,” which I’ll explain later.

But IRV is, I believe, a very good system for small, in-party delegate votes that GOP leaders see this coronavirus-changed year.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop is retiring this year — in fact, he is the lieutenant governor partner to Thomas Wright, who seeks the governorship, and the Wright/Bishop ticket is on the ballot via signatures, but will also appear in the convention, seeking one of two slots to the closed primary via delegate voting.

There are 13 Republicans running in the convention to replace Bishop in the Utah congressional district 1. That’s right, 13.

If convention organizers had to hold a round of voting each time, dropping off each round the lowest vote-getter, it would take forever. Like 10 hours “forever.”

With IRV you can — and hopefully will — have only one round of voting. Well, that is actually one push-a-button round for each delegate, all together at the same time. It will still take some time to count the votes via IRV.

In fact, is told delegates can vote (one time IRV) over a three-day period, in case something goes wrong and votes have to be taken again.

Here is how IRV works.

It’s really pretty simple. And saving time and energy is only one advantage.

In hard-fought political campaigns, IRV has one really big advantage — it keeps down, almost kills, really nasty campaigning among the candidates.

You see, in IRV a voter picks his first choice of candidate. But then he or she goes down the ballot, ranking all the rest of the candidates — their second choice, their third choice, and so on. A voter doesn’t have to pick other choices. They can just pick their first choice and leave it at that.

But most don’t do that in IRV. They rank, by preference, the other candidates. Or they can rank their first 10 choices, or eight, or whatever, in a large field of 13.

The point is, if a candidate isn’t picked No. 1, then he/she wants to be your No. 2, or No. 3. And, so, no candidate who actually hopes to win — and isn’t just a straw dog for some other candidate — can’t afford to anger any voter by being nasty, or mean, or lie about any other candidates — as that will drive away a voter who otherwise might have ranked you high up on their ballot, except that you were such a jerk to their 1st or 2nd or 3rd ranked candidate.

See what I’m saying?

IRV really smooths down the campaigning.

A candidate — hopefully all the candidates — need to talk about why THEY are the best for the job. They don’t get an advantage — just the opposite — by criticizing any one or more of the other candidates in his race.

Saying another Republican candidate doesn’t hold Utah values because he’s been divorced four times, or is married to a feminist Democrat, or doesn’t love Trump — that doesn’t cut it in IRV.

Now, IRV isn’t perfect. No voting system is.

Remember when the state Republican Party used IRV in electing its own party officers?

Well, in that IRV convention, a woman was running for national committeewoman in a large field, if I recall correctly. And she was fairly well-known among the delegates, and well know enough that she was the 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th choice. And she got elected.

Issue was, she was (is?) what may be called a “radical” or a “dissident.” She didn’t much like the “old guard” GOP men who were, and had been, running the party. She was outspoken. She didn’t get along, so to speak.

And later one party leader told me: “We’ll use (IRV) again over my dead body.” Well, they’re using IRV again, and he ain’t dead, yet.

I think IRV has many positives — especially in a very large candidate field.

As a voter/delegate, maybe your man or woman first choice doesn’t win. But maybe your 2nd or 3rd choice does win — and for you that may be better than the right-wing nutcake who has one-third support among all those archconservative delegates, but doesn’t reflect the “mainstream” feelings of most of the other state GOP delegates, who otherwise would have split their votes among two or three mainstream candidates — not ranking the nutcake at all, or ranking him last.

Let’s hope IRV turns out the best GOP candidate(s) coming out of the convention — that is good for all Utah rank-and-file Republican voters in the late-June primary.