- Ranked Choice Voting / Instant Runoff
- RCV and Election Administration
- RCV Ballot Design
RCV Ballot Design
RCV Ballot Design
The most critical piece of voter education in an RCV election is the ballot itself and its instructions.
FairVote's Sample Ballot
Download FairVote's sample ballot in pdf here. This sample ballot follows a series of best practices determined by the experience of a number of jurisdictions with various approaches to ranked ballots. They include:
- Tight column layout following a single listing of candidate names, to allow voters to rank all candidates without taking up too much space on the ballot paper.
- Emphasis on the principal instruction: "Rank candidates in order of choice."
- The key words to avoid overvotes or voters ranking the same candidate at multiple preference orders: "No more than one oval per candidate. No more than one oval per column."
- The use of numerals (e.g. "1" and "1st") instead of words (e.g. "one" and "first") for numbers and preference orders.
- The inclusion of numerals within the bubbles to avoid overvotes or skipped rankings due to accidentally filling in adjacent ovals.
- Alternating shaded and unshaded columns to avoid accidental overvotes when attempting to rank candidates whose names appear later.
- Emphasis on the 1st choice column to avoid undervotes.
- The inclusion of the following instruction: "Ranking a 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice candidate will not hurt your 1st choice candidate." This true statement helps to ensure more voters will fully utilize the ranked ballot, rather than only ranking one.
Ballots from Other Jurisdictions
The following ballots demonstrate a good approach to the use of optical scan ballots in RCV elections:
Cambridge, MA: 2001 School Committee
South Carolina: 2006 Republican Primary Overseas Ballot
Portland, ME: 2015 Mayor
Portland, ME: 2011 Mayor
This was Portland's first mayoral election and it attracted a large number of candidates; voters were permitted to rank all candidates.
The following ballots demonstrate approaches taken in other contexts and can be helpful for contrast or when considering special circumstances:
Minneapolis, MN: 2009 Mayor and City Council
Minneapolis was limited in 2009 to three rankings and listing each candidate's name three times due to older voting equipment.
Assumption Parish, LA: 2001 Judicial Election Overseas Ballot
Louisiana in 2001 hand counted RCV ballots for military and overseas voters, so voters ranked by writing numerals rather than filling in ovals.
Wicklow, Ireland: 2002 Dáil Éireann (Irish legislature)
Ireland hand-counts ballots in its multi-winner RCV elections, so voters ranked candidates by writing numerals rather than filling in ovals.