What is Ranked Choice Voting?
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a method of holding elections in which voters are given the option to rank the candidates in order of preference instead of having to choose just one. RCV works because it:
- Means that candidates that are more broadly popular tend to win
- Encourages more positive, issue-focused campaigns
- Promotes proportional representation more reflective of the community, increasing the odds of candidates of color and women being elected
- Provides more choices for voters
- Minimizes strategic voting
How does Ranked Choice Voting work?
RCV allows voters to rank candidates in a race in their order of preference instead of choosing just one: their favorite candidate first, their second-favorite candidate second, and so on.
In a single-winner race, like for mayor, a candidate needs more than 50% of the votes to win. If a candidate is the first choice of more than half the voters, that candidate wins the election. But if no candidates gets the majority of the vote, then back-up choices come into play. The candidate with the least amount of support is eliminated, the second choice votes for that eliminated candidate are redistributed, and this process continues until a candidate wins more than half of the votes.
The process is similar for a multi-winner race, but the threshold for winning a seat is less than 50% because more seats are up for election. For example, if a city is electing two people to their city council, each candidate must earn more than 33.3% of the votes to win a seat.
The Mechanics of Ranked Choice Voting
Voters rank their candidates on a ballot
Votes are counted for each candidate
If no candidate gets enough votes to win, the lowest vote getter is eliminated
Any votes for an eliminated candidate are redistributed to their next ranked-choice
Votes are counted for the remaining candidates
Eliminations and redistributions continue until a winner is found
Learn more about Ranked Choice Voting from the Alameda League of Women Voters