About Ranked Choice Voting

“With Ranked Choice Voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. Candidates running in RCV elections do best when they attract a strong core of first-choice support while also reaching out for second, third, and later choices. When used as an “instant runoff” to elect a single candidate like a mayor or governor, RCV helps elect a candidate that better reflects the support of most voters. When used as a form of fair representation, voting to fill multiple seats for a city council, state legislature, or even Congress, RCV helps to more fairly represent the full spectrum of voters.” - Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center

How it works

We rank things all of the time. Choosing ice cream flavors, clothing, or cars requires us to rank multiple possible choices by their advantages. So instead of cars or ice cream, voters rank candidates in order of preference: one, two, three, and so on.

“Broadly speaking, the ranked-choice voting process unfolds as follows for single-winner elections” - BallotPedia

  1. Voters rank the candidates for a given office by preference on their ballots.
  2. If a candidate wins an outright majority of first-preference votes (i.e., 50 percent plus one), they will be declared the winner.
  3. If, on the other hand, no candidates win an outright majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated.
  4. All first-preference votes for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots.
  5. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won an outright majority of the adjusted voters.
  6. The process is repeated until a candidate wins a majority of votes cast.

Ballot count flow chart 

Free software tallies ballots instantly after they're scanned. If one candidate receives a majority (more than 50%) of the first-choice votes, they win! If there is no majority winner, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated The ballots for the eliminated candidate count towards the voter's next choice (Instant Runoff). This cycle repeats in rounds until one candidate has a majority of the vote.

Image from Voter Choice MA
Image from Voter Choice MA

An example using food

Electing candidates, like ordering takeout, means trying to make a lot of people happy with a single result. This isn't easy, especially with our current voting system. Fortunately, there's an alternative called Ranked Choice Voting. This video is from FairVote Illinois. 


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