Administering a ranked choice voting election carries the same tasks and challenges as administering any other election. It differs in a few key ways:
First, ballots must allow voters to rank candidates. When using an optical scan voting system - the most common method, in which paper ballots are scanned and tabulated by machines - RCV contests should follow a grid format to be maximally usable while minimizing ballot space. For details on ballot design, see RCV Ballot Design.
Second, vote counting proceeds in rounds. This allows the jurisdiction to have the advantages of runoff elections, without the need to administer an entire second election. Depending on the voting system used, round-by-round tabulation can be performed by the simple push of a button, the export of a record of all votes cast into tabulating software, or by a manual or semi-manual process. In any case, election results must first be collected jurisdiction-wide before a second round can begin. For details on vote counting, see Vote Counting Options.
Much of how these steps are conducted will depend on what technology is used. The Voting Systems and RCV section describes how RCV may be administered using voting systems from the largest vendors operating in the United States. The Sample RFPs section provides language for ensuring that vendors will include RCV-readiness in their bids.
Finally, to ensure the integrity of the process, audit procedures should be used under any election method, and RCV is no exception. Audits (and even recounts) do not need to impose significantly more costs in terms of time and resources under RCV than under other election methods. The Audits and Recounts section attempts to provide best practices for applying these tools to RCV elections.