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Colleges and Universities Using Ranked Choice 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. 

Note: If you know of any colleges or universities using IRV that are not on our list, please send us a note at: [email protected]. Student organizations can evolve quickly, so some information presented here may be out of date.


List of American Colleges and Universities using ranked choice voting (RCV) (as of December 2013)

  • 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.
  • Cornell University - 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.]                                                                                                                           [See 2012 Trustee Nominating Committee Election Rules.]
  • Duke University - 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 bylaws.
  • Harvard University - The Graduate Dormitory Council, the Graduate Music Forum and the Graduate Student Council each use IRV for their internal executive position elections. The single transferable vote system (STV, also called "the Hare-Clark system") is used to elect the President and Vice President of the Undergraduate Student Council. 
    [See Bylaws of the Harvard Undergraduate Council, Article VII]
  • Johns Hopkins University - JHU used instant runoff voting for the first time during its freshman student council elections in the fall of 1999, but currently does not use the system.*
  • Lawrence University - Lawrence University used instant runoff voting for the first time for the election of the LLUC president and vice president in 2012.  It has continued to use the system in the Fall of 2013 for their District Representative Elections Fall of 2013 for their District Representative Elections. As a result, the university has seen a significant increase in voting participation.
  • Luther College - 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.*
  • 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 2013 Election Results.]
    Also, see the Technician's breakdown of how IRV works.
  • Pomona College - Pomona College  uses IRV in order to determine who wins an election. Read their election code here
  • Reed College - 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.*
    • University of California, Merced - The Associated Students of the University of California, Merced use IRV for the election of their executive officers.                                                                                                                                           [See section 4.7 of the ASUCM Election Bylaws]
    • 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 San Diego School of Law - The Student Bar Association at the University of San Diego School of Law uses Instant Runoff Voting for the election of President, Vice President, Vice President of Organizations, Treasurer, Secretary, ABA Chair, and ABA Vice-Chair

    Other Student Organizations Using Ranked Choice Voting/Instant Runoff Voting

    * 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.

    See the list of organizations and corporations that use instant runoff voting

    See the list of organizations and corporations that use choice voting