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And the Loser Is... 

Seven Days comics IRV

Published March 1, 2006 at 5:00 a.m.

One hundred seventy-four people voted in the Seven Days Comics Contest. They ranked 10 entries in reverse order of preference -- 1st=worst; 10th=best -- in an electoral exercise with a dual purpose: to demonstrate Burlington's new system of Instant Run-off Voting, and to single out a winner, er, loser, that we could strip from the paper.

Here's how it went:

In the initial round of voting, which represents everyone's "first choice," "Maakies" took the loser lead, with 50 votes -- a full 19 votes more than "Mr. Grieves," which garnered 31. In a traditional race, that would be the end of it: "Maakies" would be declared number one, with 28.7 percent of the vote. But Instant Runoff requires the winner to receive more than 50 percent of the vote. So we kept on counting . . .

How? By going to the bottom of the list, where "Troubletown" and "Idiot Box" were tied for last place, with six votes each. Last-place comic "Troubletown" was first to be eliminated; but its ballots, which stay "alive" in the IRV system, were all redistributed to their next-ranked choice. "Maakies," "Story Minute," "Mild Abandon," "Lu Lu Eightball," "Ogg's World" and "Idiot Box" all got a small boost from that.

Next to go was "Idiot Box." Then "Ogg's World," "Lu Lu Eightball," "Ted Rall," and so on, with the surviving comic candidates picking up percentage points with each subsequent departure.

After eight rounds, only three remained: "Maakies" had picked up 12.7 points, but was still shy of 50 percent, with 41.4 percent. "Mr. Grieves" maintained its second-place position, with 32.5 percent. The third-place comic, "Herb & Rose" now counted for 26 percent of the vote.

The shake-up came in the ninth round, when third-place "Herb & Rose" was eliminated. In redistributing those final 44 ballots, "Mr. Grieves" picked up a great many more votes than "Maakies," making it the most depised comic in Seven Days with 51.9 percent of the vote. "Maakies" came in with 48.1 percent. A last-minute turn-around! Proof that in the IRV system, every vote -- and every ranking within each vote -- really counts.

Still don't get it? Go to for the round-by-round explanation, with color visuals.

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