Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV)

Summary: Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates and produces fairer results than just checking a candidate. If you are electing one person try instant runoff voting or if you are electing a committee or council try the a single transferable vote.

Ranked-choice voting is a method of casting a vote where you rank the candidates instead of just picking one. On the right is an example ranked ballot for an online election.

Ranked-choice voting is better because it provides outcomes that better represent the will of the voters. Here are a few examples of reasons why ranked-choice voting is better:

  • RCV elects a candidate supported by a majority of the voters. When there are more than two candidates running, it is possible that the winner receives less than a majority. A perfect example is Donald Trump winning the 2016 Republican primary without receiving the support of a majority of voters.
  • RCV allows voters to vote honestly without "wasting" their vote. For example, a voter who supports a third party can rank the third-party candidate first, knowing that his or her vote will count towards the second choice if the third party candidate doesn't win.
  • RCV prevents losing candidates from changing the outcome of the election. For example, in 2000, people complained that Ralph Nader caused Al Gore to lose the election. With RCV, Nader's votes would have been transferred to their second choices instead of splitting liberal votes.

People use the term ranked-choice voting in different ways. For some people, ranked-choice voting means any voting method where voters rank candidates. For these people, ranked-choice voting includes not only instant runoff voting and the single transferable vote, but also Condorcet voting and the Borda count.

For some people, ranked-choice voting means specifically instant runoff voting when electing a single candidate and the single transferable vote when electing multiple candidates (e.g., a council or committee). Follow the above links to learn more!

Ranked-choice voting is also known under other names, such as majority preferential voting, the alternative vote, English preferential voting, and the Hare-Ware system.