How does ranked choice voting work?
Ranked choice voting is already used in many locations across the country. It allows voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference (first choice, second choice, third choice, etc.). All “first choice” votes are counted, and if a candidate has a majority (over 50%), they win.
If nobody has a majority, the candidate with the least first choice votes is eliminated, and the people who voted for that candidate first then have their vote added to their second choice candidates. The process repeats until one candidate reaches a majority and wins. Watch a short video that explains ranked choice voting.
So how is this supposed to improve democracy?
Democracy means that as voters, we are able to elect candidates who reflect our values and interests, and those candidates are supposed to act in our interest. But you might feel like that isn’t always how it happens. Many of us, no matter what our political view are, have voted for a candidate that we aren’t really excited about. Ranked choice voting can help change that in several ways:
- RCV allows voters select the candidates they really like. You can vote your conscience–pick who you think will do the best job–rather than being forced to pick the lesser of two evils.
- RCV encourages more viewpoints and candidates. In our current elections, candidates are often forced to adjust their views to align with one of our country’s two dominant political parties. With ranked choice voting, candidates with a range of different views have a shot at winning even if they have different views than the traditional parties.
- RCV helps elect candidates with a broad base of support. Ranked choice voting means that the winning candidate is also more likely to have a high number of second- and third-choice votes.
- RCV is fiscally responsible. Elections are expensive, and if a runoff election is needed, even more taxpayer money gets spent. Ranked choice voting eliminates the need for a separate runoff election because one candidate will inevitably reach a majority of votes during the counting. That saves public funds to use on other things.
Where else is ranked choice voting used?
Several cities and one state in the United States use ranked choice voting–some have used it for a long time, and more and more are voting to start using it in the future. The current list includes:
- The State of Maine
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Payson, Utah
- Benton County, Oregon
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Oakland, California