In Ranked Choice Voting, voters rank as many candidates as they want in order of preference. If any candidate has a majority (more than half) of the first preference votes, then that candidate is elected. Otherwise the RCV process builds a majority by eliminating the least-supported candidates and transferring ballots cast for the those eliminated to the voters’ next preference.

Marking the Ballot

For voters, Ranked Choice Voting is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3. Just rank your choices in order of preference. This sample ballot shows a voter who preferred Alice first, Carol second, and Bob third.

Counting the Votes

RCV ballots are counted in a series of rounds. First, all the first choices are counted; if any candidate has a majority of votes, (more than 50%) that candidate wins. Otherwise, the last place candidate (the candidate with the fewest votes) is eliminated and any votes cast for that candidate are transferred to the voter’s next preference. (if the voter chose to rank more candidates) After each round of counting, we check again to see if any candidate has won a majority. If not, again, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and there is another round of counting. Candidates continue to be eliminated after each count until one candidate has won the majority.

Multi-Winner Races

Ranked Choice Voting can also be used to elect multiple candidates at a time, such as elections for At-large City Council. For more details, check out this multi-winner RCV example provided by our friends at FairVote.