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It's Time For RIPE (Representative Instant Pairwise Elimination) Elections

We, the voters, are frustrated! Political insiders use gerrymandering, blocking third-party candidates, vote-splitting in primary elections, and other tactics to fill our state legislatures and city councils with special-interest puppets instead of problem-solving leaders.

Instead of a legislature or city council that's gridlocked, and unable to adopt simple solutions to big problems, we want problem-solving leaders who aren't afraid to offend the greedy few big campaign contributors. Such real leaders would reduce preventable crime, increase employment, energize the regional or local economy, and give a valuable real-world education to young people.


As explained in the webpage about Instant Pairwise Elimination (IPE), the fair way to elect governors and mayors is to ask voters to mark their ballots with not just a first choice, but also a second choice, third choice, and so on, and then use pairwise counting to identify which candidate is actually the most popular.

Specifically, the information on ranked ballots enables us to quickly identify which candidate loses every pairwise contest against all the other candidates. That candidate is instantly eliminated. We can repeat this elimination process until just one candidate remains. That's who deserves to win the election.

If you aren't already familiar with that pairwise-counting method, please read that webpage before continuing here. We'll wait for you.

And if you've already read about IPE, remember that the IPE method fills a seat with a problem-solving leader instead of a special-interest puppet.

What About Representation?

If you live in a district where your elected representative is from the “wrong" political party, then you know that just getting fairness in single-seat elections is not enough. After all, how can a single winner from a single party fully represent both the Republican voters and Democratic voters within a district? That's not possible.

Fortunately we can extend the IPE method to fill a state legislature or city council in a way that's fair, and fully represents nearly all the voters. How?

We start by doubling the size of each district, to twice the single-seat size. And then we elect two legislators or city-council members from each double-size district.

At this point let's suppose the two seats are filled by one Republican and one Democrat. With this arrangement, the voters who prefer the Republican party are represented by the district's Republican legislator, and the voters who prefer the Democratic party are represented by the district's Democratic legislator.

But of course we need to give third parties a chance to win one of those two seats. How is that done?

Obviously the winner of the first seat would be the candidate who is most popular according to instant-pairwise-elimination counting. Typically (in the U.S.) this winner would be a Republican or Democrat, and typically from whichever party is more popular in that district.

Identifying the second-seat winner is not as simple as choosing the runner-up in the election. Why? Typically the runner-up is from the same political party as the first-seat winner. That would give both seats to the same political party.

Second-Seat Winners

Identifying the winner of the second seat (in a double-size district) requires a first step of identifying which voters are well-represented by the first-seat winner.

As a first guess, we can say that the voters who did not rank the first-seat winner at the top of their ballot are not well-represented by that first-seat winner. But this guess isn't good enough. Why? A voter could rank a can't-win candidate at the top of their ballot. This tactic shifts their ballot into the not-yet-represented category, even though their ballot helps to elect the first-seat winner.

The counting steps needed to correctly identify the second-seat winner are listed below. But feel free to gloss over these steps because a computer would do them instantly.

  1. Identify the ballots that rank the first-seat winner at the top (of the ranking), and set them aside during the next step.
  2. Using just the remaining ballots, use IPE to identify the most popular candidate.
  3. Re-consider all the ballots.
  4. Identify which ballots rank the first-seat winner above the candidate identified in step 2, and count these ballots.
  5. Calculate a reduced-influence number that will apply to the ballots identified in step 4. This number ranges from zero (if the count in step 4 is half the ballots) to one (if the count in step 4 is all the ballots).
  6. Use IPE with all the ballots, but use the reduced-influence number (from step 5) to reduce the influence of the ballots identified in step 4. The other ballots get full influence. The result reveals which candidate deserves to win the district's second seat.

Our legislative district now has winners for both seats.

Significantly the two winners will never be from the same political party! (Of course it's not intended for use in places like China and Russia where only one political party is allowed.) If there is no strong third party, and the district boundaries are reasonable, then the two winners are likely to be one Republican and one Democrat. Notice this party-balanced outcome happens without peeking at the political-party affiliation of any candidate (and without asking voters to mark a favorite party).

However, if either the Republican party or the Democratic party does not offer a problem-solving leader as the winner of their party's primary election, then a third-party candidate will win that party's seat. This ability of voters to elect a third-party candidate is what makes this vote-counting method far more representative compared to current primitive voting methods.

Solving The Gerrymander Problem

How do we make sure the district boundaries are reasonable, fair, and without bias?

Simple. We slightly enlarge the district sizes and reserve a few “statewide” or “citywide” seats. And we fill these statewide (or citywide) seats with candidates from parties or “groups” that did not win their fair share of seats.

With this adjustment, if the Republican and Democratic parties bias the district boundaries against a popular third party, the third party would win the extra statewide seats. If instead the Republican party biased the boundaries against the Democratic party, the Democratic party would win the statewide seats. And if the Democratic party biased the boundaries in their favor, non-Democrats would win the statewide seats.

This approach is used in many European nations, but it was done in a not-fully fair way. European members of parliament chose an approach that gave them a much better chance of getting re-elected. Specifically it gave political parties heavy control over which candidates win the extra seats. As a result, European voters also rarely see problem-solving leaders on their ballots. This is a useful reminder that people in power seldom willingly adopt fully democratic reforms.

How do we know which political party failed to win its fair share of district seats? Each ballot shows which candidate was ranked highest by that voter. And we know which party that candidate is from. This gives us enough information to calculate the percentage of voters who prefer each political party. So we assign the statewide seats to parties based on trying to reach these same percentages.

For example, suppose 50 percent of the voters rank a Democratic candidate at the top of their ballot, and 45 percent of the voters rank a Republican candidate at the top of their ballot, and 5 percent rank a Libertarian candidate at the top of their ballot. And suppose all the district seats are won by Republicans and Democrats. If the number of statewide seats is less than 5 percent of the total seats, then all the statewide seats deserve to be won by Libertarian candidates.

Many city councils attempt to ignore political-party affiliations, so how can their citywide seats be assigned? One approach is to identify a heavily under-represented characteristic such as race or language or gender, and use that characteristic instead of political parties. Of course identifying which “group” of voters deserves this extra consideration is problematic, but any unfairness in choosing “groups” would be small compared to the unfairness of exiting elections. (If it's appropriate to ask on the ballot which race or gender or “group" best represents the voter, then that information can be used to calculate under-representation.)

Filling Statewide Seats With Losing Candidates

We now know how many statewide seats are won by each political party (or group). But which candidates fill these statewide (or citywide) seats?

Let's say we're filling a statewide seat that was won by the Libertarian party. We look at just the ballots that rank a Libertarian candidate at the top of their ballot. And we count how many voters expressed top-ranked support for each of the Libertarian candidates. (Of course we ignore the count for any Libertarian candidate who has already won a legislative seat.) From among the top-ranked Libertarian candidates, we award the seat to the candidate with the largest count of these first-choice preferences. This process is repeated for each statewide seat. It's simple and fair.

Cooperation And Stability

Of course the legislators or city-council members who must agree to adopt this kind of reform are going to be afraid of losing their legislative seats in the next election. To protect them long enough to switch from being special-interest puppets into problem-solving leaders, it's wise to limit — at least initially — how many additional seats can be won by third-party (or under-represented-group) candidates in a single election.

For this purpose, and to guarantee stability in the first few elections, the calculations can limit the change in overall political-party representation. Specifically, a political-party loss of ten percent of the legislative seats can be set as a limit when calculating statewide seat winners.

Of course the special-interest puppets who fail to recognize that they represent greedy business owners — instead of representing the majority of voters — deserve to lose re-election. They will be the politicians who will be eliminated at a rate of at least ten percent per election.

Comparisons With Other Vote-Counting Methods

So how does the RIPE (representative instant-pairwise-elimination) voting method compare with other vote-counting methods? Here's a summary.

  • RIPE elects problem-solving leaders instead of special-interest puppets.
  • RIPE gives small political parties a chance to win more seats, especially when either mainstream party fails to offer candidates who voters really like.
  • RIPE takes control away from political parties and gives full control to the voters.
  • RIPE can be used with zero statewide seats to completely ignore political-party affiliations.
  • RIPE can be modified for use in city-council elections where political-party affiliations are ignored.
  • RIPE focuses attention on candidates and issues, not political-party quotas.
  • RIPE solves the gerrymander problem by defeating district-boundary adjustments.
  • RIPE defeats tactical voting, which is a weakness of most other vote-counting methods.
  • RIPE cuts the puppet strings that connect elected politicians to their biggest campaign contributors.
  • RIPE defeats vote-splitting strategies that the biggest campaign contributors use to defeat candidates who are problem-solving leaders.
  • RIPE is biased in favor of whichever parties offer the best problem-solving leaders, and is biased against whichever parties offer special-interest puppets instead of problem-solving leaders.
  • Perhaps most importantly, RIPE provides a better vote-counting method compared to other vote-counting methods that get talked about, but which do not reliably yield all the fairness advantages listed here.


The most important parts of RIPE are copied from the most important parts of VoteFair ranking. In fact, the RIPE method is so similar to VoteFair Ranking that both methods will give the same results in most cases. This means that most of what's written in Ending The Hidden Unfairness In U.S. Elections also applies to the RIPE method.

Also, the testimonials for VoteFair ranking can be regarded as applying to the RIPE method.

Here is one of those testimonials. It's from Allan Barber, the administrator of elections for the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club: “Our club is extremely pleased with multiple aspects of the VoteFair system.  The ability to vote online meant an extremely high voter turnout, approximately 70-75%!  Equally as important are the concepts underlying the VoteFair system.  Using a comparison system instead of the more common method of voting for a single candidate we came out knowing that we had voted in the candidates our club members preferred to have in the seats.  Not only were there a number of good candidates, which could have split a conventional vote to the point of electing a non-preferred candidate, but our club is essentially split between 2 facilities and some candidates were known better in one or other of the facilities.  VoteFair [ranking] gave us the ability to balance that out transparently.  ... Our organization has had several successful elections (of club officers) in the past few years, including an annual election a couple of weeks ago with the most candidates ever, and all the results have been recognized as very fair.”

Best of all, the code that calculates VoteFair ranking is available on GitHub so it's ready to be used in any situation where programmers can connect it to whatever ballot format you want. Here's the link: VoteFair Ranking on GitHub

Please Share

It's time to adopt fairer vote-counting methods at the city and state level. It's time for RIPE elections!

Please bookmark this page and share it with friends, coworkers, relatives, and anyone else who is frustrated that elections don't give fully representative results.


History: This RIPE method was first proposed on 2019-February-1 by Richard Fobes.  It was created as a variation of the IPE (instant-pairwise-elimination) method, which was first proposed in 2019 January by Richard Fobes.  The RIPE method uses many components of VoteFair ranking, which was designed by Richard Fobes.  The differences between RIPE voting and VoteFair ranking are that VoteFair popularity ranking is replaced by IPE counting, and VoteFair party ranking is replaced by assuming that the voter's top-ranked candidate is from the voter's favorite political party.




Cover of Ending The Hidden Unfairness In U.S. Elections Cover of The Creative Problem Solver's Toolbox VoteFair ranking was invented by Richard Fobes who is the author of Ending The Hidden Unfairness In U.S. Elections and The Creative Problem Solver's Toolbox.   Sales of these two books help to make VoteFair ranking available for free at this website.



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