About Ranked Choice Voting

How Ranked Choice Voting Works

Ranked choice voting is a simple change to the ballot that enables a better voter experience, better campaigns, and ultimately, better government.
Ranked Choice Voting gives voters more freedom, more expression, and more power. Instead of picking just one candidate, a voter has the option to rank their candidates in order of preference — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on.
Check out this Video Explainer: 

*This video was originally produced to educate New York City voters about their RCV system. RCV systems can give voters the option to rank more than five candidates.

Why is this helpful? For the first time ever, a voter now has the power of backup choices. This means that if their favorite (1st choice) cannot win the election, their vote instantly counts toward their next choice. This type of power helps voters succeed in two kinds of election scenarios:
As a voter, with Ranked Choice Voting, you can always vote for the candidate you truly love without the fear of “throwing your vote away”. Even if your favorite is not a front-runner, you have backup choices, so your vote is never wasted, and your voice is always heard.

How to Win Under Ranked Choice Voting

Ballots are counted in “instant runoff rounds” where contestants receiving the fewest top-choices are eliminated and their supporters’ ballots are then counted toward the next choice indicated on each.
This process “consolidates” the voting power of like-minded voters, no matter how many candidates are running, rather than seeing the strength of their votes diluted and divided between multiple similar candidates. It means no more “spoiler problem”, so more candidates with a variety of backgrounds or ideas can run without worrying about distorting the outcome of the election.
These rounds repeat until one candidate has the support of more than half of the voters. Because winning requires a broad majority of support, candidates need to earn their opponents’ supporters’ 2nd and 3rd choice votes on the ballot. This encourages them to find common ground and talk about the substance of issues, rather than mudslinging — which alienates voters.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a simple but powerful solution that gives people a stronger voice and more choice when they vote.

Why Ranked Choice Voting

People are fed up with toxic politics and unresponsive, gridlocked government dominated by powerful special interests. Grassroots leaders across the country are organizing to solve the source of the problem — our flawed election system. 
Our current “pick-one” plurality election system punishes voters with “wasting their vote” if they choose their actual favorite and don’t use their ballot to support a “front-runner” candidate or one from the two major parties. It lets unpopular politicians win by allowing candidates to be elected even when the majority of voters oppose them, and makes elections toxic by incentivizing candidates to beat down their opponents and exaggerate differences, missing opportunities to reinforce areas of agreement that unify the electorate and create consensus for getting important things done after the election.

QUICK FACTS

Every vote counts and you can always vote for your favorite knowing your vote will never be wasted.
Fresh candidates can run without fear of being treated like a “spoiler”.
New parties can form and share their ideas without fear of splitting votes from a similar major party.
The current system is fragile and vulnerable to manipulation and broken, inaccurate outcomes as soon as more than two candidates run. This is because of “vote splitting” and the “spoiler effect”. Two or more candidates or parties running on similar platforms penalize each other and divide their shared base of supporters, rather than reinforcing their mutual efforts. Finally, our current voting system limits participation by discouraging new candidates from running and new parties from forming.

Where Ranked Choice Voting is Used

See Table
Benton County, OR
San Fransisco, CA
Oakland, CA
San Leandro, CA
Berkeley, CA
Palm Desert, CA
Carbondale, CO
Basalt, CO
Telluride, CO
Santa Fe, NM
Las Cruces, NM
Minneapolis, MN
St. Paul, MN
St. Louis Park, MN
Memphis, TN
Eastpointe, MI
Takoma, MD
Cambridge, MA
Amherst, MA
New York City, NY
Albany, CA
Eureka, CA
Boulder, CO
Arden, DE
Sarasota, FL
Portland, ME
Ferndale, MI
Bloomington, MN
Minnetonka, MN
Austin, TX
24 cities and towns in Utah: Bluffdale, Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Elk Ridge, Genola, Goshen, Heber, Lehi, Magna, Midvale, Millcreek, Moab, Newton, Nibley, Payson, River Heights, Riverton, Salt Lake City, Sandy, South Salt Lake, Springville, Vineyard, and Woodland Hills
Burlington, VT

RCV by the numbers: 28 states include at least one jurisdiction that uses RCV. 54 jurisdictions across the country have used or enacted RCV.

StateCity/TownRCV UsageDetails
AlabamaStatewideMilitary & overseas voting Enacted for all federal primary runoffs in 2015.
AlaskaStatewideStatewide & for presidential electionsTo be used in November 2022.
ArkansasStatewideMilitary & overseas votingAdopted in 2005, extended to all local runoffs in 2007.
CaliforniaBerkeleyLocal electionsAdopted in 2004, used since 2010 to elect the mayor, city council and city auditor.
CaliforniaOaklandLocal electionsAdopted in 2006, used since 2010 for 18 city offices, including mayor and city council.
CaliforniaSan FransiscoLocal electionsAdopted in 2002, used since 2004 to elect the mayor, city attorney, Board of Supervisors and five other citywide offices.
CaliforniaSan LeandroLocal electionsAdopted in 2000, used since 2010 to elect the mayor and city council.
CaliforniaAlbanyLocal electionsAdopted in 2020 for City Council and School Board beginning in November 2022.
CaliforniaEurekaLocal electionsAdopted in 2020 to be used for mayor and city council elections beginning in November 2022.
CaliforniaPalm DesertLocal electionsAdopted January 2020 to be used for city council elections, starting in November 2022.
ColoradoBasaltLocal electionsAdopted in 2002 for mayoral races only with three or more candidates. First used in April 2020.
ColoradoCarbondaleLocal electionsAdopted in 2002 for mayoral races with three or more candidates.
ColoradoTellurideLocal electionsdopted in 2008 for next three mayoral elections with at least three candidates. Used in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
ColoradoBoulderLocal electionsAdopted for mayoral races in 2020 to be used beginning in 2023.
DelawareArdenLocal electionsIn use for town council elections since the early twentieth century.
FloridaSarasotaLocal electionsAdopted in 2007, awaiting approval from the Florida Department of State's Division of Elections.
GeorgiaStatewideMilitary & overseas votingAdopted in 2021, to be used beginning in 2022.
HawaiiStatewideMilitary & overseas votingUsed in Democratic primary in 2020.
IllinoisSpringfieldMilitary & overseas votingAdopted in 2007, first used in 2011.
KansasStatewidePresidential primariesUsed in Democratic primary in 2020.
LouisianaStatewideMilitary & overseas votingAdopted and used since the 1990s for state and federal general election runoffs.
MaineStatewideStatewide & for presidential electionsAdopted in 2016 and first used in 2018 for all state and federal primary elections and all general elections for Congress.
MainePortlandLocal electionsAdopted in 2010 for mayoral elections.
MarylandTakoma ParkLocal electionsAdopted in 2006 and used since 2007 in all elections for mayor and city council.
MassachusettsAmherstLocal electionsAdopted in 2018, to be used beginning in November 2021.
MassachusettsEasthamptonLocal electionsAdopted in 2019, to be used in mayoral and all single-seat city council elections starting in November 2021.
MassachusettsCambridgeLocal elections Adopted in 1941, used to elect the city council and school board.
MichiganEastpointeLocal electionsAdopted for 2019 and 2021 city council elections.
MichiganFerndaleLocal electionsAdopted in 2004, awaiting implementation.
MinnesotaBloomingtonLocal electionsAdopted in 2020 for city elections.
MinnesotaMinneapolisLocal electionsAdopted in 2006, used since 2009 in elections for 22 city offices, including mayor and city council, some park board and board of estimate seats.
MinnesotaMinnetonkaLocal electionsAdopted in 2020 for city elections.
MinnesotaSaint PaulLocal electionsAdopted in 2009, used since 2011 to elect the mayor and city council.
Minnesota Saint Louis ParkLocal electionsAdopted in 2018, used since 2019 for mayor and city council races.
MississippiStatewideMilitary & overseas votingAdopted in 2014, used in federal runoffs.
NevadaStatewidePresidential primariesAll early voters in Democratic caucuses in February 2020.
New MexicoSanta FeLocal electionsAdopted in 2008, used since 2018 for mayor, city council, and municipal judge.
New MexicoLas CrucesLocal electionsAdopted in 2018, used since 2019 for all municipal elections.
New YorkNew York CityLocal electionsAdopted in 2019, used in all city primary and special elections for mayor, citywide offices, borough presidents and city council, starting in 2021
OregonBenton CountyLocal electionsAdopted in 2016, used in general elections for county offices of commissioner and sheriff, beginning in 2020.
South CarolinaStatewideMilitary & overseas votingAdopted and first used in 2006 for state and federal runoffs.
TennesseeMemphisLocal electionsAdopted by voters in 2008, and approved again by voters in 2018. Awaiting implementation readiness.
TexasAustinLocal electionsAdopted in 2020 to be used for all city elections.
UtahBluffdaleLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahCottonwood HeightsLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahDraperLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahElk RidgeLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahGenolaLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahGoshenLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahHeberLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahLehiLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahMagnaLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahMidvaleLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahMillcreekLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahMoabLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahNewtonLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahNibleyLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahPaysonLocal electionsWill be used for mayor, 2 at-large city council seats, and 1 at-large vacancy election in 2021.
UtahRiver HeightsLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahRivertonLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahSalt Lake CityLocal electionsWill be used for 4 by-district city council seats in 2021.
UtahSandyLocal electionsWill be used for mayor, one at-large city council seat, and two by-district city council seats in 2021.
UtahSouth Salt LakeLocal electionsWill be used for mayor, one at-large city council seat, and two by-district city council seats in 2021.
UtahSpringvilleLocal electionsWill be used for mayor, 2 at-large city council seats, and 1 at-large vacancy election in 2021.
UtahVineyardLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
UtahWoodland HillsLocal electionsWill be used for mayor and 2 at-large city council seats in 2021.
VermontBurlingtonLocal electionsAdopted in 2021, to be used for city council beginning in March 2023.
VirginiaStatewidePresidential primariesAll voters in Republican primary.
WyomingStatewidePresidential primariesAll voters in Democratic primary in April 2020.
StateCity/TownRCV Usage
AlabamaStatewideMilitary & overseas voting
AlaskaStatewideStatewide & for presidential elections
ArkansasStatewideMilitary & overseas voting
CaliforniaBerkeleyLocal elections
CaliforniaOaklandLocal elections
CaliforniaSan FransiscoLocal elections
CaliforniaSan LeandroLocal elections
CaliforniaAlbanyLocal elections
CaliforniaEurekaLocal elections
CaliforniaPalm DesertLocal elections
ColoradoBasaltLocal elections
ColoradoCarbondaleLocal elections
ColoradoTellurideLocal elections
ColoradoBoulderLocal elections
DelawareArdenLocal elections
FloridaSarasotaLocal elections
GeorgiaStatewideMilitary & overseas voting
HawaiiStatewideMilitary & overseas voting
IllinoisSpringfieldMilitary & overseas voting
KansasStatewidePresidential primaries
LouisianaStatewideMilitary & overseas voting
MaineStatewideStatewide & for presidential elections
MainePortlandLocal elections
MarylandTakoma ParkLocal elections
MassachusettsAmherstLocal elections
MassachusettsEasthamptonLocal elections
MassachusettsCambridgeLocal elections
MichiganEastpointeLocal elections
MichiganFerndaleLocal elections
MinnesotaBloomingtonLocal elections
MinnesotaMinneapolisLocal elections
MinnesotaMinnetonkaLocal elections
MinnesotaSaint PaulLocal elections
Minnesota Saint Louis ParkLocal elections
MississippiStatewideMilitary & overseas voting
NevadaStatewidePresidential primaries
New MexicoSanta FeLocal elections
New MexicoLas CrucesLocal elections
New YorkNew York CityLocal elections
OregonBenton CountyLocal elections
South CarolinaStatewideMilitary & overseas voting
TennesseeMemphisLocal elections
TexasAustinLocal elections
UtahBluffdaleLocal elections
UtahCottonwood HeightsLocal elections
UtahDraperLocal elections
UtahElk RidgeLocal elections
UtahGenolaLocal elections
UtahGoshenLocal elections
UtahHeberLocal elections
UtahLehiLocal elections
UtahMagnaLocal elections
UtahMidvaleLocal elections
UtahMillcreekLocal elections
UtahMoabLocal elections
UtahNewtonLocal elections
UtahNibleyLocal elections
UtahPaysonLocal elections
UtahRiver HeightsLocal elections
UtahRivertonLocal elections
UtahSalt Lake CityLocal elections
UtahSandyLocal elections
UtahSouth Salt LakeLocal elections
UtahSpringvilleLocal elections
UtahVineyardLocal elections
UtahWoodland HillsLocal elections
VermontBurlingtonLocal elections
VirginiaStatewidePresidential primaries
WyomingStatewidePresidential primaries

Frequently Asked Questions

Can we really change how we vote?

Absolutely! Our methods are simple and time-tested: organize and educate regular voters so they can spread the word and take effective actions to achieve this common sense improvement to our elections.
To do this we offer these valuable resources:
  1. A proven playbook of strategies, tactics, and priorities to ensure success
  2. Coaching and consultation
  3. Pathways to funding
Experience has shown that this basic assistance we provide can enable a small but dedicated group to rapidly grow into a powerful statewide wave of change demanding to Rank the Vote.

What's wrong with our elections?

Our current “pick-one” plurality election system:
  • Punishes voters with “wasting their vote” if they choose their actual favorite and don’t use their ballot to support a “front-runner” candidate or one from the two major parties.
  • Let’s unpopular politicians win by allowing candidates to be elected even when the majority of voters oppose them.
  • Makes elections toxic by incentivizing candidates to beat down their opponents and exaggerate differences, missing opportunities to reinforce areas of agreement that unify the electorate and create consensus for getting important things done after the election.
  • Is fragile and vulnerable to manipulation and broken, inaccurate outcomes as soon as more than two candidates run. This is because of “vote splitting” and the “spoiler effect”. Two or more candidates or parties running on similar platforms penalize each other and divide their shared base of supporters, rather than reinforcing their mutual efforts.
  • Limits participation by discouraging new candidates from running and new parties from forming.
The results are catastrophic:
  • Denial of choice to voters, breeding disinterest and cynicism.
  • Poisoning of political culture and magnification of partisan division.
  • Gridlock around big problems rather than common purpose taking action.
  • Erosion of competition, innovation, and problem solving in elections and government.
  • Government of the powerful, not of the people.

How does RCV help?

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is the reform that is rescuing America. RCV offers transformative benefits:
  • Every vote counts and you can always vote for your favorite knowing your vote will never be wasted.
  • Fresh candidates can run without fear of being treated like a “spoiler”.
  • New parties can form and share their unique and valuable perspectives without fear of undermining their own goals by splitting votes and diluting electoral power with the most similar major party.
  • Strong independents can participate holding their heads high without dealing with unfair accusations of interference or irrelevance.
  • Problem solving orientation where everyone running has a real reason to emphasize areas of common agreement as well as what makes them the best choice. Candidates tend to focus on issues and treat rivals with more respect.
  • The will of the people prevails because the majority of voters always determines the winner from a full and robust set of choices.

How are votes counted?

Ballots are counted in “instant runoff rounds” — see this video explainer — where contestants receiving the fewest top-choices are eliminated and their supporters’ ballots are then counted toward the next choice indicated on each.
This process “consolidates” the voting power of like-minded voters, no matter how many candidates are running, rather than seeing the strength of their votes diluted and divided between multiple similar candidates.
Here’s the part that solves the “spoiler candidate” problem:
These rounds repeat until one candidate has the support of more than half of the voters. Because winning requires a broad majority of support, candidates need to earn their opponents’ supporters 2nd and 3rd choice votes on the ballot.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a simple but powerful solution that gives people a stronger voice and more choice when they vote.

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