New Zealand holds national election with ranked choice voting

Posted by Rob Richie on December 15, 2015

The value of ranked choice voting (RCV) to handle contests with more choices is widely recognized. A quick internet search for 2015 news of terms associated with it – “instant runoff voting”, “preferential voting,” and “single transferable vote”, for examples – provides many examples of important uses in 2015.

Nearly every political party in Canada and the United Kingdom uses RCV when choosing party leaders, for example, as was the case this year when the Labor Party picked a new national leader and new leader in Scotland. Whenever local governments in Scotland have vacancy elections, they use RCV, as happens many times a year. The British House of Lords uses RCV for vacancy elections, as it did in November, while India elects its upper chamber and president with RCV elections among elected leaders and used it in a recent major local election.

This year in London, both the Conservative Party and Labor Party nominated their candidates for mayor of London in RCV contests. The Conservatives elected a winner on the first count, while the Labor nominee earned 59% of the final round vote after securing 37% of first choices – with more than 99.9% valid ballots out of the nearly 90,000 ballots cast. The governmental election for mayor next year will be a modified instant runoff system with two rankings and the winner needing to finish in the top two in the first count.

New Zealand uses RCV in several of its major cities, including mayor and city council of Wellington, and just held a national referendum with ranked choice voting, called “preferential voting” in the country. The government has invested tens of millions of dollars in a two-round process in which the current flag will face off against the flag that was chosen in a recent RCV election among five alternative flags. Prime Minister John Key said he was “delighted” with the outcome, which featured higher-than-expected turnout and a robust contest where the winner in the final “instant runoff” trailed in first choices, but was the majority choice when the field was narrowed to two. An effort by defenders of the new flag to derail the referendum by sending in spoiled ballots had little impact.

Here’s a link to how the elections commission explained RCV (which they term “preferential voting”), as well as a video explanation. We made a chart of the results below. 

infogram_0_new_zealand_flag_referendumNew Zealand Flag Referendum//

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