Colleges and Universities Using Instant Runoff Voting
A growing number of colleges and universities are following the recommendations of Robert's Rules of Order and adopting instant runoff voting (also called "preferential voting" and "ranked choice voting") for single-winner elections like student body president -- most of the uses below are since 2001, but others date back decades. Additionally, some schools have added the choice voting method of proportional voting for their legislative elections. After going to IRV, several schools such as the University of Iowa have experienced sharply higher voter turnout.
Note: If a reader knows of any colleges or universities using IRV that are not on our list, please send us a note at:irv [at] fairvote [dot] org. Also, colleges can change methods quickly, so some schools listed here may not still be using IRV.
List of Colleges and Universities with IRV (as of August 2011, as best as we can determine)
Arizona State University
Uses instant runoff voting (here called “preferential voting”) to elect members of the Academic Assembly.
Uses instant runoff voting to select RA Officers.
[See Bates College Student Government Elections and Judiciary Committee Guidelines]
Boise State University
Associated Students of Boise State University (ABSU) uses an instant runoff voting system for all of the elected positions on its executive council
California Institute of Technology
The Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology use IRV to elect their Vice-President (Board of Control Chairperson), the Board of Control Secretary and the Interhouse Committee Chairperson and the Conduct Review Committee Student Chairman. See Article VIII, Section 5 & 6 of the ASCIT Constitution here.
California State University at Chico
IRV has been adopted in 2005 by the college student government.Since then, the voter turnout has been increasing, the Spring 2008 elections reaching the highest turnout ever. [Read the Student Press Coverage]
[See Spring 2008 Election Results]
California Polytechnic State University
The California Polytechnic State University's ASI adopted IRV in 2007 for its Presidential ticket election. According to the ASI Bylaw 184.108.40.206, "The Presidential Election ballot shall include provisions necessary for Instant Runoff Voting such that in the event that no candidate receives a majority of the vote a winner will be determined based on the ranking of candidates by each Member at the duly held election."
[Spring 2008 Elections Results]
[The Mustang Daily Student Press Coverage]
[ASI Voter Guide - IRV-]
[Mustang Daily Article on IRV adoption]
Preferential voting is used at Carleton when more than two candidates are running for the following offices: President, Vice President, Treasurer, Committee on Student Life Co-Chair/Liaison, Intercampus Liaison, Admissions and Financial Aid Committee Liaison, and Education and Curriculum Committee Liaison. If no majority wins a seat, IRV is implemented.
[See the Spring 2008 Election Results]
[See Carleton College Bylaws, Article XVI, Section 3]
IRV is used to elect the President, Vice President, Social Affairs Council Chair, Dormitory Affairs Council Chair, Student Life Council Chair, and Class Presidents.
[Read the Associated Students of Claremont-McKenna College Constitutuion Article 2(f)(ii)]
Clemson University's Undergraduate Student Senate uses IRV for its internal student senate officer elections. For the offices of Student Senate President, Pro Tempore, Secretary and Clerk, IRV will be used.*
College of William and Mary
The Student Assembly at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA approved IRV for student elections in 2002. Undergraduate class officers as well as the presidential ticket of the student assembly are elected through Instant Runoff Voting. (As of 2012, implementation is on hold pending finding means to implement IRV with a different online voting company.)
Uses IRV for Student Council Elections, starting with the 2009 elections. Use was temporarily suspended in 2012 due to issues relating to implementation.
[Read article on IRV in Columbia Spectator]
Student Government Association uses instant runoff voting for all elections.
[Read Connecticut College Student Government Association Wiki]
Cornell University students use IRV to elect two Student-Elected Trustees who serve as full-voting members of Cornell University's Board of Trustees. IRV is referenced as "the Hare System" in all Cornell legal documents. In 2009, it adopted IRV for elections to student government.
[See Spring 2008 Elections Results Here.]
[Read the Spring 2008 Student Elections Rules, Article 4]
Dartmouth’s Student Assembly held IRV elections from 2005 to 2010. The assembly developed an online voting site for elections for Student Body President and Vice President. In 2011, an unelected committee suspended use of IRV.
[See Article XII, Section VII & VIII of the Constitution of the Dartmouth College Student Assembly.]
[Results of the SA 2006 Elections.]
[The Dartmouth's Coverage of Spring 2008 Elections.]
Duke’s Student Government has been electing its six executive committee members through IRV since 2004. Since then, IRV has been applied to all elections to make sure "the winner of all elections will be determined by a majority" as explained in the election bylaw number 6.
[Spring 2008 Election Results.]
George Washington University
Georges Washington University's Student Association adopted on March 2011 by referendum Instant Runoff Voting; allowing the SA Senate to implement the measure for every student elections. The system was not used in 2012.
[See the GW Hatchet talking about this improvement]
Georgetown University's Student Association voted in April 2006 to implement IRV for their presidential elections. In fall 2006 students approved IRV for student Senate elections by a margin of ten-to-one. They held a successful election that October and have used IRV for all student Senate elections since being adopted, except for one election in 2009.
[Articles here and here about the high-turnout multi-candidate election in 2012]
[Read the GUSA Constitution- Article II, Section 2]
[Hoya Article about Spring 2008 IRV Elections.]
[Hoya: How IRV worked in the 2011 presidential election]
The Graduate Dormitory Council, the Graduate Music Forum and the Graduate Student Council each use IRV for their internal executive position elections.As for the President/Vice President of the Undergraduate Student Council, STV (Single Transferable Vote, also called "the hare proportional voting system") is used.
[See Bylaws of the Harvard Undergraduate Council, Article VII]
Hendrix College used IRV for the first time during the 2003-04 academic year. Voter participation doubled and students said they were happy with the immediate results. The voting system (also called rank voting system) is used for all student association elections.
[See Article II, Section 5 of Hendrix College Election Code]
Hun School of Princeton
Hun School of Princeton used IRV to elect the President-General and Vice President-General from entire student body and the President and Vice President for each rising Class, starting in spring of 2010.
Johns Hopkins University
JHU used instant runoff voting for the first time during its freshman student council elections in the fall of 1999.*
Lewis and Clark College
Instant Runoff Voting and Choice Voting as defined in the article IV of the Associated Students' Bylaws have been adopted by this student government to "ensure that all ASLC elections are maximally representative and that each vote of an ASLC member counts." They are also defined as "the most democratic methods for counting votes in ASLC elections". Thus, Instant Runoff Voting is used for single-seat elections and Choice Voting is used for multi-seat elections.
Lewis and Clark College has also developed a voter education campaign to familiarize voters with Instant Runoff Voting and Choice Voting before all elections.
Luther College in Iowa adopted IRV in the Spring of 2003. At first, the Student Government used IRV only for electing the President, Vice-President and Secretary, but this will be expanded to include class representatives to the Student Senate.*
IRV was adopted in Spring 2003 at Macalester for the election of executive positions on the Student Council, and is now a part of the Student Government's Constitution (Article V). Use of IRV has expanded to become the preferred method of voting for all one-seat elections.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT students use instant runoff voting for all of their student government elections including President, Vice-President, class councils and Student Senate. Its Web site includes detailed breakdowns of the transfer of votes within each election since 2000. [See the MIT Election Results and Archives.]
IRV was adopted in 2011 for future elections
IRV is used each year to elect an alumnae representative to the Board of Trustees.
North Carolina State University
In 2008, North Carolina State University students used IRV (Instant Runoff Voting) and STV (Single Transferable Voting, or "choice voting") for their elections for the first time. The Student Body President, the Student Senate President, the Student Body Treasurer, the Student Body Chief Justice, the Student Centers President, the Union Activities Board President, Senior Class Presidents and Leaders of the pack are elected through IRV. In the meantime, Student Senators, Student Centers Board of Directors and the Student Media Board are elected through STV.
The idea of changing the voting method for student elections came after Cary (NC) residents elected their mayor with the IRV system in October 2007. [Read the bill]
[See the Technician Online Coverage.]
[Spring 2008 Election Results.]
[See a Sample Ballot ]
Also, see the Technician's breakdown of how IRV works.
Portland State University
Portland State overwhelmingly approved of IRV for key Associated Students races 79 to 21 percent after the Student Senate unanimously passed the measure in Feb. 2005. All the major candidate slates supported IRV. In 2006, the first IRV election enabled three slates to run, and resulted in a 51 to 49 percent tally between the strongest slates. IRV is currently used for the President/VP ticket and the Student Fee Committee Chair.
[Read the Daily Vanguard Coverage of 2006 Elections.]
[See the Associated Students of Portland State University Constitution, Article VII.]
The Student Assembly uses IRV for its internal elections.
[See the USGPU Constitution, Article VII, Revised Dec. 2004.]
[Read Assembly Bylaws]
[Read article on 2008 Executive Senator election]
The Reed Student Body Elections Code (as amended in April 2001) provides for IRV in its Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections and for choice voting for other student council elections.*
Santa Fe College
Santa Fe College was the first community college in the U.S to use IRV for its student elections. In March 2008, the Student Association President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer were electetd with IRV.
[See the Student Government Constitution, Article VI, Section 2]
[Student Press Coverage.]
[Read the Center for Student Leadership and Activities at SFCC's Report]
[See article on 2011 election with instant runoff voting]
Shoreline Community College
Uses instant runoff voting to elect the President, the Minister of Government, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs, the Minister of Communications, and the Chancellor of the United Club Council.
[Read Student Body Association Bylaws]
Sonoma State University
After the adoption of IRV in San Francisco's city council elections, the students of Sonoma State University decided to move to IRV themselves for general elections. Sonoma State elections using IRV started in the 2004-05 academic year.*
Stanford University In 2001, the Associated Students of Stanford University adopted instant runoff voting for executive offices and class presidencies.
[See the Spring 2008 Official Results]
[See the Election Results Archives]
[The Daily Stanford for Press Coverage of IRV.]
[The Spring 2008 Results in The Daily Stanford]
[Read an explanation of IRV by the Stanford Student Government]
[Read a commentary about the reasons Stanford uses instant runoff voting for its student elections.]
State University of New York - Albany
The implementation of instant runoff voting (here called “preferential voting”) to elect members of the Student Association is pending due to implementation issues after adoption in 2008.
The Tufts student body approved a new constitution for the Tufts Community Union in 2003. IRV was included in the new version both for the presidential election, Senate in-house elections and TCUJ in-house elections.
[See the TCU Constitution, Article V, Revised April 2003.]
[See the Tufts Daily Coverage of Spring 2008 Elections]
University of California at Berkeley
The Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley has used IRV (which they call the alternate vote) to elect its Executive Officers since 2002. It uses choice voting for other key student elections.
[See the ASUC Constitution, Title IV, Sections 15.3-15.4, Revised November 2008.]
[Read an Explanation of the Voting Process Here]
University of California at Davis
The Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates of the Associated Students of the University of California at Davis are elected together through IRV since 2005. The Senate is elected via choice voting (single transferable vote).
[See the ASUCD Constitution, Revised June 2005.]
[See the Winter 2008 Detailed Election Results]
[Browse the Davis Citizens for Representation Website - Supporter of Choice Voting at UC Davis.]
University of California at Los Angeles
The Graduate Students Association's executive officers, including the President and Vice-Presidents on Internal, External and Academic Affairs, are elected through IRV since April 2006.
[Read the Graduate Students Association, Election Code, 9.7.5 ]
[The Daily Bruin Press Coverage.]
[Spring 2008 Election Coverage]
University of California at San Diego
One of the most recent adoption of IRV. In March 2008, UCSD students used IRV for the first time to elect their President, Vice President, Academic Senators and College Senators.
[See the Standing Rules of the AS of UCSD]
[Press Release on the adoption of IRV]
University of California at Santa Barbara
UC Santa Barbara use instant runoff voting for all executive offices.
[Read Sections 8 & 9 of The Associated Students' Legal Code]
University of Iowa
In 2006, the President and the Vice President of the UI Student Government were elected by IRV for the first time. Senators are also elected using this method - for humanities, fine arts, nursing, natural sciences, social sciences, business, education, and engineering (areas of study) and at-large. After the 2008 elections the Daily Iowan reports: "A record-setting 32.53 percent of eligible students voted in the UISG electronic runoff ballot, casting 6,357 votes".
[Read the Daily Iowan Article about IRV in U.S Universities]
University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy
Uses a “secret ballot using instant runoff voting” to elect officers for its Grad Phi community.
University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma Student Association (UOSA) held its first IRV election - a four-way race for president - in March 2005. The chief election administrator and all candidates described the online instant runoff election as a success.
[Read the Oklahoma Daily Article] The use of IRV has been suspended pending a debate over its legality under the university constitution, which may require separate runoffs.
University of San Diego Law School Student Bar Association
Uses Instant Runoff Voting for the election of President, Vice President, Vice President of Organizations, Treasurer, Secretary, ABA Chair, and ABA Vice-Chair
[Read the Balloting procedures]
University of Virginia
The University Board of Elections, established in 2003, staged a mock 2004 U.S. presidential race using IRV. IRV was then brought in to U.Va. student elections in 2003. "After many irregularities during past elections, Student Council and the University conducted two investigations/reports to propose a solution to the problems seen in runoffs in student elections over the past few years."
[Read University Board of Elections, Rules and Regulations for more information about OPAV]
University of Washington
The Graduate Student Government at the University of Washington has adopted instant runoff voting for single-winner elections, and the Undergraduate Student Government recently decided to implement IRV in their campus-wide elections.
[Read the University of Washington Senate Bylaws, Article IX, Section 1, D.1 ]
[Spring 2008 Elections Coverage by the Daily]
[The Daily Article on the Spring 2008 Results]
University of Wisconsin
The United Council of University of Wisconsin Students has adopted IRV to elect the president of its General Assembly, a body of about 150 representatives from schools across Wisconsin. The United Council is the nation's oldest, largest and strongest statewide student association, representing more than 145,000 students at 24 UW System Campuses.*
During Sept. 2002, the Vassar Student Association voted nearly unanimously to adopt instant runoff voting and the choice voting form of full representation for future student elections. In 2004, IRV and STV have been used for the first time to elect representatives for the freshman council, campus committees and the President. During the Spring 2008 student elections, all elections were held through IRV and STV (for the Judicial Board Representatives and Student Representatives).
[See the Spring 2008 Elections' Results]
[Read the 2004 Elections Coverage by The Miscellany News]
[See the Vassar Student Association Bylaws, Article VII, Section 8]
Western Washington University
In 2012, WWU adopted IRV for its elections. For many years, the Student Senate has used IRV to elect its Vice-Chair and Parliamentarian.
[2012 minutes on debate on IRV and final language adopted]
[Read Western Washington University Associated Student Bylaws 3.5 and 3.7.1]
The Associated Students of Whitman College use IRV for its single-seat elections (Executive Council Elections) and choice voting (aka STV) to elect its Student Senate. Choice Voting is also used for Student Senate special elections and in case of interim IRV can be used as well.
[See the Bylaws of the ASWC, Section 3, 4, 5, 6]
[Read an Whitman Pioneer article about Spring 2008 elections.]
[Read FAQ on Student Elections]
* Denotes that verification of current use is being sought.
International Elections: Instant runoff voting is common in international universities as well, especially in English-speaking nations where it is often called "preferential voting.' It is typically used in all colleges and universities in Ireland and Australia. Among many examples, see Canada's University of Alberta and London's Queen Mary Student Union.