Using RankedVote

Run Multi-Category Contests

How to Use RankedVote to Run Multi-Category Contests

What are Multi-Category Contests?

Multi-category contests are where the voter casts votes for multiple positions in a single voting experience. After voting for the first category, the voter is immediately taken to the ballot for the second office. Common examples of elections that use this approach are:

  1. A group making decisions on multiple related topics like Top Priorities for Design, Top Priorities for Marketing, etc.
  2. A contest that has a common overall theme like "Best Restaurant" but contains distinct categories such as Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.
  3. Elections to fill multiple leadership positions like President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, etc.
  4. Election simulations that mimic the real thing with categories like Governor, Senator, Congressperson, Mayor, City Council, School Board.

Why Use Multi-Category Contests?

Put simply, it's the most efficient way to get your voters to weigh in on multiple topics using RankedVote. Getting voters "to the polls" is a difficult task — even when your election is done virtually. Once there, it's best to make the most of that engagement with your voters.

Benefits of Multi-Category

  • Streamlines voter experience
  • More realistically simulates ranked-choice elections

Follow the walkthrough below to see these benefits in action 👇

Step-by-Step Walkthrough


Once you sign in, click the purple "Add" button seen at the top of the Dashboard. Select the Contest Type that makes the most sense for your needs. Give your decision, contest, or election an overarching name and then add the choices that voters will rank for whichever category you want to appear first.

Throughout this guide it'll refer to "Contest," "Category," and "Choices." The same steps apply whether you're making a Decision ("Decision," "Topic," and "Options") or running an Election ("Election," "Office," and "Candidates.")

Make it "Multi-Category"

For all contest types, scroll down to the bottom of the Details page to unlock the multi-category experience. Each contest type uses different terms, but the functionality is the same. This keeps the terms you see in line with what your voters see.

After you click "Unlock," the page will refresh and your contest will be set up in multi-category mode.

Note: It's a good idea to check the name of the first category. By default, it will inherit the name of the overall contest. Click the "Edit" button to change it as necessary.

Unlocking a multi-office election when you have a subscription
Unlocking a multi-category contest when you have a subscription

Create Additional Categories

Your multi-category contest now shows Contest Settings near the top. But, it's not really a multi-category contest until you create multiple categories!

To get going on that front, click the "Add another category" link just under the "Category Settings (1 of 1)" header. You'll create a new category and choices just like when you created the contest originally. When done, you'll be returned to the Details page.

Repeat the "add another category" step as many times as necessary for your contest. The "Prev" and "Next" buttons let you switch between the categories in your contest.

Create additional offices using the "Add another office" link
Creating an additional "office" in a "Multi-Office Election."

Adjust Settings

There are now two levels at which you can configure your contest: Category Settings and Contest Settings.

Category settings apply only to that category and include:

  • Category Name
  • Winners
  • Choices

Contest settings apply to ALL categories in the contest and include:

  • Contest Name
  • Ballot Type (Plurality and Final-Five only apply to Elections)
  • End Date
  • Language (only applies to Elections)
  • Results Visibility
  • Randomize Choice Order
  • Voter Registration
  • Allowed Voters
  • Deduplicate Results

For the "Leadership Positions" election shown in the screenshots, let's say there are three offices: President, Steering Committee (3-person), and Treasurer. To make that election work as intended, you'd want to adjust the Winners of the Steering Committee office to "3" and check the Office Name of each office. You could then configure the Election Settings as desired — perhaps changing the Ballot Type to "Grid."

Note: The first office will have the same name as the election's name at the moment you upgraded to multi-office ("Leadership Positions" in the screenshot above). You'll very likely need to edit that office's name to better reflect what voters are voting on.

Promote the Contest

With your contest configured, you should be all ready to go. You just need some voters!

Promote your contest by clicking on the "Vote Link" button at the top of the page. This copies the URL for the contest's ballot to your clipboard for easy pasting into other places. Feel free to share with your voters in any channel you please: email, social media, chat, messaging, etc.

Voter Experience

The multi-category voter experience differs slightly from the standard RankedVote experience. To better orient the voter, additional information appears on the ballot.

Multi-office drag and drop ballot voter experience
What a voter sees in a multi-office election: 1) Office Name 2) Election Name 3) Position Indicator

The Category Name (1) appears at the top of the ballot to ensure the voter knows what position is being voted on. The Contest Name (2) and Position Indicator (3) appear just under the ballot to let the voter know "how much is left to go" in the voting experience.

After clicking submit, the vote for that category is saved and the next category appears. Once the vote for the last category is received, the voter is shown a "Thanks" page with a link to the preliminary results (unless your contest has Results Visibility set to "only contest creator.")

Pictures not quite doing it for you? Try out a multi-category voter experience

Note: It's possible for your voters to skip offices. Or, they might bail before voting for all offices. Votes are saved each time "Submit" is clicked, so you may see more votes in the results for the earlier offices.

The Results page also differs slightly for multi-category contests. Like the ballot, the Category Name, Contest Name, and Position Indicator are displayed prominently. To page through each category's results, use the two arrow buttons in the purple summary section.

There is a matching set of arrow buttons and a position indicator at the bottom of the Results page as well.

Check out the multi-category results experience

Navigation buttons on multi-office results page
Use these arrows to navigate to the previous or next office's results in an election

Best Practices

Double Check Your Choices Before Promoting

Choices can be forgotten or misspelled. Multi-category makes that more likely just due to the fact that there are that many more choices in a given contest. So, give the choices in each category another check before you promote the contest to your voters.

Combine with "Final-Five" (Elections only)

The multi-office feature can be used with the Final-Five ballot type to create the most advanced election you can run in RankedVote. The winners of the first round "Primary" for each office will become the candidates for the second round "General."

When it comes to combining these two features, there is a preferred order of operations. It's better to make your election Multi-Office, add the offices and candidates, and THEN set the ballot type to Final-Five. This way, RankedVote knows how many candidates are in each office and can set the Winners for the primary round appropriately.

If you go Final-Five and then Multi-Office, it's not the end of the world. You'll just need to edit the number of winners in the Primary as they'll be set to 1 by default.

Activating the Final-Five feature for an election
Activating the Final-Five feature for an election

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