Choice voting is a proportional voting system where voters maximize the effectiveness of their vote by ranking candidates in multi-seat constituencies. Through choice voting, like-minded groupings of voters win legislative seats in better proportion to their share of the population. Whereas winner-take-all elections award 100% of power to a 50.1% majority, proportional voting allows voters in a minority to win a fair share of representation.
Internationally, choice voting is also known as “preference voting”, the “Hare system” and the “single transferable vote”. Choice voting has proven to be an effective tool in electing representative governments, encouraging coalition-building among minority groups and parties, and accommodating voter choice.
Choice voting is FairVote's preferred fair voting system for use in multi-member districts in the United States.
Voters simply rank candidates in order of preference, putting a 1" by their first choice a "2" by their second choice and so on. Voters can rank as few or as many candidates as they wish knowing that a lower choice will never count against the chances of a higher choice.
To win under choice voting, candidates need an exact number of votes called a "threshold". After counting first choices, candidates with the winning threshold are elected. To maximize the number of voters who help elect someone, "surplus" ballots beyond the threshold are transferred to remaining candidates according to voters' next-choice preferences. After transferring surplus ballots until no remaining candidate has obtained the winning threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. All of his/her ballots are distributed among remaining candidates according to voters' next-choice preferences. This process continues until all seats are filled.
In this sample choice voting election, six candidates run for three seats elected at-large. To show how choice voting allows like-minded groupings of voters to win a fair share of seats, the candidates are divided into two parties: Yellow and Blue.
Three Yellow party candidates - Garcia Brown and Jackson - run for the seats matched by three Blue party candidates - Charles, Murphy and Wong. There are 1000 voters.
View how the elections works here.
Choice voting is used for elections all around the world and has a history of use in the United States. Cities such as New York and Cincinnati used it for decades while Cambridge continues to employ it for City Council elections.
Internationally, choice voting (known as single transferable vote) is used for all national elections in Ireland and Malta and for select elections in many other countries including Australia, India, and New Zealand.
Choice voting is also frequently used to elect board members in private organizations and corporations. On many campuses, choice voting has been adopted to elect student governments that are reflective of the student body.
Questions or concerns about choice voting? Our Choice Voting FAQ has the answers, including:
- Why choice voting is such an effective system for selecting a representative body
- How ranking choices affects what happens to your vote
- Why ties are not a problem in choice voting
- Additional reading material on choice voting