Voter Education Publications
Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting
More Fair. Winners have a majority.
Too often, candidates can and do win election to offices like Mayor and Governor despite being opposed by most voters. With ranked choice voting, if no candidate has more than half the vote in first-choices, candidates finishing last are eliminated round-by-round in an instant runoff until two candidates are left. The winning candidate will be the one with majority support when matched against the other. In a multi-winner election, ranked choice voting promotes majority rule because the majority of voters will always be able to elect a majority of seats, without fear that an entrenched minority has used gerrymandered districts to ensure they stay in office.
In non-ranked choice voting elections, candidates benefit from “mud-slinging” by attacking an opponent’s character instead of sharing their positive vision with voters. With ranked choice voting, candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents. A comprehensive Rutgers University poll of voters in 7 cities with ranked choice voting found that voters report friendlier campaigns and that RCV had majority support in all of the cities using it.
Democracy is strongest when more voices are heard. Too often, to avoid “vote splitting” in which candidates can and do win with very little support (see “Promotes Majority Support” above), efforts are taken to limit the number of candidates who compete. This limits voters’ choices. In some places, that means a low turnout primary election eliminates most of the candidates; in others it means restrictive ballot access laws keep out challengers; and in others it means that candidates are shamed into staying out the race. Ranked choice voting allows more than two candidates to compete without fear of splitting the vote.
Voters should be able to vote for candidates they support, not just against candidates they oppose most. Yet in elections without ranked choice voting, voters may feel that they need to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” because their favorite candidate is less likely to win. With ranked choice voting, you can honestly rank candidates in order of choice without having to worry about how others will vote and who is more or less likely to win.
Too often, candidates win by barraging opponents with a slew of expensive, negative ads, rather than building a positive, grassroots campaign for support. Candidates who have run and won in ranked choice voting elections have been successful because they built grassroots outreach networks. Those more positive and inclusive campaign tactics cost less than polarizing negative radio and television elections, helping to explain why candidates seem able to win ranked choice voting elections even when outspent.
Many local offices are elected in two rounds of elections; either a primary winnowing the field to two followed by a general election, or a general election followed by a runoff if no candidate has a majority. In either case, the election that takes place outside of the context of the general Election Day often suffers from very weak and unrepresentative turnout, while raising issues of vote splitting in the first round and the possibility of disenfranchising overseas and military voters. Ranked choice voting can accomplish the benefits of a primary/runoff election structure with only one election, avoiding these issues while saving the jurisdiction the costs of running two elections. That’s why ranked choice voting is often called “instant runoff voting” when used to elect mayors, governors, and other single-winner offices.
- Pueblo would save $135,000.
- Colorado Springs would save $550,000.
- Denver would save $800,000.
Compared to winner-take-all elections, ranked choice voting in multi-winner contests allows more diverse groups of voters to elect candidates of choice. This promotes diversity of political viewpoint as well as diversity of candidate background and demographics. Even in single-winner races, ranked choice voting can promote the representation of historically under-represented groups like racial and ethnic minorities and women. A report co-authored by FairVote and the New America Foundation found that racial minority populations prefer ranked choice voting and find it easy to use, and that ranked choice voting increased turnout by 2.7 times in San Francisco.
RCV is a Common-Sense Reform We Can Have Now.
Ranked Choice elections can be hand-counted or machine counted using software currently in use across Colorado. The Colorado Secretary of State has already promulgated administrative rules and has identified best-practices RCV audit procedures.
Is this IRV or STV or what?
RCV is the voter-centric language for one voting method which can be applied to single-winner races (like president) or multiple-winner races (like some city council at-large seats). An old scholarly rivalry lead to people referencing them as Instant Runoff Voting when used in single-winner races, and Single Transferable Vote when used in multiple-winner races. There are two important differences in how RCV get applied if you are administering the tally.
- The majority threshold formula yields a different result. The formula is (1/(n+1))+ 1 vote where n=the number of seats to be filled. Thus for a single-seat race the winner must pass 50%. In a single-seat winner-take-all system, this provides representation for a minimum of 50.01% of voters. For a multiple-seat race with two seats, the same formula yields a different threshold result, which provides representation for a minimum of 66.67% of voters.
- In the tally, the process stops after the final winner is identified. The transfer of surplus votes from a candidate who already won in irrelevant to a race with only one winner.