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Have questions about ranked choice voting? We've got all the answers you need.

How does Ranked Choice Voting work?

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to rank the candidates in an election, in order of preference.

In an election, if one candidate receives an outright majority, that candidate wins. Same as in a typical "first past the post" election.

If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest first place votes is eliminated and voters who ranked that candidate first have their ballots instantly counted for their second choice. This process repeats and last place candidates are removed until one candidate reaches a majority and wins.

Your vote counts for your second choice only if your first choice has been eliminated.

Why does Ranked Choice Voting matter?

In a word, representation. Ranked Choice Voting ensures the outcome of an election better represents voters' desires.

The elimination of unviable candidates removes the "spoiler effect" they can have on the overall election. This allows voters to comfortably vote for whom they think is the best candidate — even if that candidate may be unlikely to win.

Also, by making "playing for second place" a viable election strategy, Ranked Choice Voting leads to more civil campaigning.

The cumulative effect is a more positive, representative election.

Is it complicated and confusing?

No. Ranked Choice Voting has been used in elections across the United States for decades. Surveys and interviews of voters have shown it just as easy to understand as the more common "vote for one" elections.

How is the "votes to win" number calculated?

For single-winner elections, the winner needs to have a majority of the votes cast (50% + 1). In an election with 600 votes cast, the threshold would be 301 votes. In an election with only 10 votes cast, the threshold would be 6 votes.

For multi-winners elections, it's the same idea. What is the amount of votes that would guarantee this candidate is supported by enough voters? For a two-winner election, it comes out to 33% of the votes + 1. For a three-winner election, it's 25% of the votes + 1.

If you're feeling nerdy, this concept is called the Droop Quota.

How do multi-winner elections work?

Multi-winner elections are for making decisions that don't have a single answer. It could be to fill an advisory board that has three open seats. Or, to choose the best initiatives when you've only got budget to pursue the top two.

The best part? There's no additional work for your voters. They vote exactly as they have before. RankedVote calculates the winners.

Ranked-choice voting's signature feature is the elimination of candidates. If no one has a majority, the lowest vote getter is eliminated and those votes get moved to their next ranked choice.

Multi-winner elections add one more concept to the mix — excess votes.

In a multi-winner election, if a candidate has excess votes beyond the number of votes needed to win, those "overkill" votes also get moved to their next ranked choice in the following round.

Why? It's all about ensuring that the true preferences of the group are reflected.

Imagine an election to replace a 3-member board. One candidate is extremely popular and gets 75% of first-place votes. Without handling excess votes, the remaining two candidates would be determined out of the 25% who didn't vote for the popular candidate. In other words, a majority of the seats (2 out of 3) would be determined by a minority of the group (the 25% who didn't vote for the popular candidate). That's not fair or representative!

With excess vote handling, the popular candidate is clearly determined to be a winner, the excess votes are sent to next choices, and the entire voting group's preferences are reflected.

Check out this example multi-winner election to see how it all plays out. Then, start using it in your own organizations!

What happens if there is a tie?

While rare, it can happen — especially when there are a low number of total votes cast. RankedVote uses a concept called "preference intensity" to ensure the most representative outcome is achieved. The short version is that the remaining candidates are compared to see who was ranked highest amongst the redistributed votes.

Here's the longer version of how it works:
- The remaining candidates are identified
- Votes for each candidate are assessed on their original rank
- Votes for each candidate are totaled based on their rank value
- This totaling generates a "preference intensity score" (see below)
- The scores are totaled for each remaining candidate
- The candidate with the lowest score wins the tiebreaker (like golf!)

It's a bit complicated. But, it's better than pulling a name out of hat.

Preference Intensity Score
RankedVote assigned a numeric value to each rank a candidate could receive. A first-place vote is worth 1. A second-place vote is worth 2. A third-place vote is worth 3, and so on.

Say there are two remaining candidates in a tie and no one can be further eliminated. They each have 10 votes after redistributions from other candidates. The 10 votes that went to "Candidate A" had 6 first-place votes, 1 second-place vote, and 3 third-place votes (Score: 17). The 10 votes to "Candidate B" had 7 first-place votes, 2 second-place votes, and 1 third-place votes (Score: 14). "Candidate B" would win the tiebreaker as the average voter ranked this candidate more strongly.

How can I use this with my school or organization?

Perceptions of "what an election is" and "what an election should be" are formed at an early age. Exposure to Ranked Choice Voting helps shape those perceptions. Feel free to use the resources and tools on this site to educate others.

And, since there's no better education than real world experience, don't hesitate to create an election.


Make every vote count.

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