RCV - How It Works

Ranked-Choice Voting: Easy as 1, 2, 3

Our current system of voting is called "first-past-the-post" or "plurality" voting. It allows citizens to vote for only one option even if many candidates are running for the same office, creating the SPOILER EFFECT.  The spoiler effect happens when voters do not vote for their favorite candidate, but vote for a more popular candidate they think can win. Otherwise, they may feel they wasted their vote.

RANKED-CHOICE VOTING is a voting system that prevents the spoiler effect. Instead of voting for only one candidate, voters rank the choices from their favorite (1st choice) to their least favorite (last choice). If the voter's first choice is not popular, that's okay! If their first choice does not have enough votes to do well, their vote will go to their next choice. The process continues until a candidate has more than half of the votes (50% plus 1).

Ranked-choice voting is similar to what we do when ordering soft drinks. We say things like "I'd like Coke, but if they don't have Coke I'd take a Pepsi." We give our first choice as well as what we'd prefer if that first choice isn't available.

To give folks a chance to try ranked-choice voting, we conducted a sample poll asking their favorite soft drink. The sample ballot is at the left.

How Ranked Choice Votes Are Counted:

Round 1: First Choice Votes Tallied

One hundred people took our soft drink poll. When we counted the first choice results, no soft drink had half of the votes (50% plus 1). Coke came in first, followed by Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and then Root Beer.

Round 2: Choice with Fewest Votes Eliminated

Since no soft drink had a majority of the votes in Round 1, the candidate with the least number of first-choice votes (Root Beer) was eliminated. Voters who ranked Root Beer first had their votes counted towards their second choice. 

Half the voters who put Root Beer as their first choice selected Dr. Pepper as their second choice. Some selected Coke as their second choice and fewer selected Pepsi. After votes were distributed, Coke was still in the lead. 

Round 3: Final Winner Selected

Since no soft drink had a majority after Round 2, the candidate ending Round 2 with the fewest votes (Pepsi) was eliminated and their voters' next choices were counted.

Because Pepsi got two votes from Root Beer in Round 2, those two voters had their third choices counted when Pepsi was eliminated in Round 3.

Ten of Pepsi's votes went to Dr. Pepper, and 14 of Pepsi's votes went to Coke, putting Coke over the 51 votes needed to win the contest. 

Congrats! We selected a choice that we know is preferred by more than half of the voters! Everyone voted for their favorite choice, and no one felt like their vote was wasted.