Colleges and Universities Using Ranked Choice Voting
A growing number of colleges and universities are using ranked choice voting (RCV), a voting method that allows voters to rank their choices in order of preference. RCV can be adopted and implemented in both single and multi-seat elections. When used for a single-seat election like student body president, RCV takes the form of instant runoff voting (IRV). When used in multi-seat elections, RCV is a form of fair representation voting. Over 50 colleges and universities in the US use RCV for student elections, this means over 700,000 students across the country are empowered with more choice in electing student leaders.
Note: Please contact us if you know of any academic institutions that use ranked choice voting and are not listed below.
List of American Colleges and Universities using ranked choice voting (RCV) (as of April 2014)
Boise State University - With over 23,000 students, Boise State holds the distinction of being the largest university in Idaho and is a power-house in the Mountain West Football Conference -- famous for their blue field turf, often called "Smurf Turf." Offering classes in 200 areas of study, it is clear that Boise State values giving its students meaningful choice. The Associated Students of Boise State University (ABSU) have followed suit, giving students more choice by using RCV to elect all elected positions on its executive council.
- [See the 2013 ABSU Candidate Packet - describing voting procedures]
California Institute of Technology - CalTech boasts 32 Nobel Laureates, 57 National Medal of Science recipients, and an RCV system that helps represent over 2,200 students. Caltech uses RCV to elect the Vice President, the Board of Control Secretary, the Interhouse Committee Chairperson, and the Conduct Review Committee Student Chairman of the Associated Students of California Institute of Technology (ASCIT).
California State University, Chico – CSUC, with one of the longest histories of higher education in California, builds a strong sense of community within its student body. All of CSUC’s 16,356 students are voting members of CUSC’s Associated Students. The Associated Students have used RCV since 2005 to elect officers, which has resulted in consistently high turnout. In 2008, well over 4,000 of the University's 16,356 students voted for Student Body President, setting an all-time record. Turnout has remained high in the years to follow. 2014 saw 3,910 students participate in elections, with great enthusiasm as seen here in The Orion’s coverage of results being announced.
California State University, Northridge - With six Model UN titles since 2000 and over 250 student organizations, Northridge has a tradition of civic engagement and social awareness. Over 36,000 CSUN students use RCV to elect the Student President and Vice President of the Associated Students each year.
- [See Associated Students Elections Code]
- [See 2014 Candidate Filing Packet, Section X]
- [See 2014 Unofficial Election Results]
California Polytechnic State University - Ranked 9th in the West by America’s Best Colleges guidebook, CalPoly has a long tradition of taking a "Learn by Doing" approach to its education. This hands on and thorough learning method extends to its student governance. CalPoly students use RCV to elect the Associated Students president. RCV was adopted in 2007, the change was aimed at creating a “more efficient voting system.” CalPoly students have shown a commitment to ensure students are well informed about ranked choice voting.
Claremont-McKenna College - Renowned as one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, Claremont-McKenna prides itself on providing a liberal arts education as well preparation for a life of leadership. One way students gain leadership experience is in The Associated Students of Claremont-McKenna, who use RCV to elect the President, Vice President, Social Affairs Council Chair, Dormitory Affairs Council Chair, Student Life Council Chair, and Class Presidents. With candidates competing in multiple three-way races, RCV played a key role in making the campus voice heard in last year’s student government elections.
- [Read the Associated Students of Claremont-McKenna College Constitution Article 2(f)(ii)]
- [See 2014 Election Results]
Clark University - One of only a handful of Universities famously profiled in the book “Colleges that Change Lives,” Clark also changed the way it runs elections. In 2003, Clark adopted RCV for all elective offices for its student government. Clark is also located less than an hour’s drive from Cambridge, MA, which uses ranked choice voting in its city council elections.
Concordia University School of Law - Established in 2011, this up and coming law school is one of the first in Idaho and the first in the state’s capital of Boise. Concordia’s Student Bar Association uses RCV to elect its executive board, house of delegates, and elected representatives.
Cornell University - Routinely ranked among the world’s top 20 universities, Cornell’s 20,000 students use RCV to elect two student members to the university Board of Trustees. The position itself is unique, making Cornell one of only a handful of universities to have two students, two faculty members, and one employee as full members of the board. Cornell's Student Assembly also uses RCV to elect its Student Body President, Executive Vice President, and uses the Single Transferable Vote variation of fair representation for at-large representatives.
- [See the Student Assembly Charter Here]
- [See 2014 Elections Results Here]
- [See 2014 Trustee Nominating Committee Election Rules]
Duke University - Duke University takes the lead in more than just NCAA basketball standings. The Blue Devils are also leaders in student democracy, using RCV to represent over 14,000 students in student government elections. One of the nation’s most distinguished private research universities, Duke adopted the system in 2004 for its executive elections and has since expanded the practice to all elective positions. RCV has proven to be an effective and practical method of electing student leaders, playing a key role in a close election between 4 candidates earlier this year.
Emory Law School - Ranked by US News and World Report as one of the nation’s top 20 law schools, Emory makes RCV “as easy as ranking 1-2-3!” After some recent changes to its elections code, the university uses RCV in Student Bar Association elections.
George Washington University - Georges Washington University's Student Association passed a referendum with 61% approval in March 2011, thus enabling the SA Senate to implement RCV for student elections. The system was not used in 2012 or 2013.
- [See the GW Hatchet Talking About this Improvement]
- [GW Hachet Reporting the Student Body's Approval of IRV Legislation]
Georgetown University - Georgetown is one of the most prestigious private universities in the country. Since 2006, the university has used RCV for its single-seat student elections. In 2013, the university adopted a fair representation system for legislative elections. The impact of RCV was on full display in the GU Student Association’s most recent presidential election, with each of the four tickets using cross-endorsements to build off their mutual interests. After the leading ticket finished the first round with only 35% of the vote, two more rounds of voting ensured that Georgetown students were represented by the candidate with the broadest support.
- [See FairVote's Coverage of 2014 Elections]
- [See the GUSA Twitter for a Play-By-Play of the 2014 Elections]
Harvard University - The oldest institution of higher education in the US, dedicated to excellence and innovation, also has one of the longest histories with RCV. Harvard's Undergraduate Student Council uses RCV to elect their President and Vice President. The Graduate Dormitory Council, the Graduate Music Forum, and the Graduate Student Council each use RCV for their internal executive position elections.
- [See Bylaws of the Harvard Undergraduate Council, Article VII]
- [See article about improved representation in recent elections]
Hendrix College - At just over 1,400 students, Hendrix is a small liberal arts college with some big ideas. The Student Senate saw voter participation double after RCV was implemented during the 2003-2004 school year, and has since continued to use the system for all SA elections.
Humboldt State University - Around 8,000 undergraduates use RCV to elect both council representatives and executive officers like president and vice president. The Associated Students first used the new system in the spring 2014 elections after the President-elect in 2013 won on a platform of support for RCV.
Lawrence University - Ranking among the Ivies in Newsweek’s most rigorous colleges, Lawrence takes its academics and its elections seriously. Lawrence first used RCV in its 2012 elections and has continued to use the system in the fall of 2013 for their District Representative Elections. As a result, the university has seen a significant increase in voting participation.
Louisiana State University Law Center - Boasting five National Moot Court Championships since 2005, the LSU Law Center knows a thing or two about smart competitions in the courtroom and at the ballot box. Recognized by National Jurist as the country’s third “best value” law school, LSU Law Center’s Student Bar Association uses RCV to elect its officers.
Loyola Marymount University - Loyola Marymount’s 9,000 students use RCV to elect their president and vice president. Loyola Marymount elections have boasted extremely impressive turnout for years but this year's elections saw record-breaking turnout with over 51% of the student body voting in this year's election.
- [See coverage of the 2014 Election]
- [Coverage of record-breaking turnout in 2014]
- [See the ASLMU Elections Code, Section 3.K]
Luther College - With one of the highest rates of Peace Corps volunteers, Luther’s 2,000 students carry their sense of social awareness into their elections. Since implementing RCV in 2003, the Student Government has expanded its use from executive elections to the Student Senate.
Macalester College - Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, which uses RCV for its municipal elections, one of the nation's most reputable liberal arts college uses RCV to elect its student government officials. Its most recent presidential election was decided after five rounds of voting with one of the highest voter turnout rates on record.
Marquette University - In elections for president and vice president with more than two tickets, the Student Government at this illustrious Milwaukee University uses RCV. According to the student newspaper, The Marquette Tribune, the change was aimed at increasing turnout. Marquette's first RCV elections saw an increase in turnout during the 2014 elections with 22.3% of Marquette's 8,300 students voting.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Though usually regarded as a leader in science and information technology, MIT is also an innovator in student elections. MIT students use RCV for all of their student government elections including President, Vice-President, class councils, and Student Senate. Since adopting RCV in 2004, the university’s Undergraduate Association maintains a vibrant electoral system. According to Election Commissioner Leonid Grinberg, most candidates enter the race with a base of friends and supporters, but “what really matters is the second vote. Those are the ones that actually decide elections.”
- [See the MIT Undergraduate Association Election Code]
- [2014 Election Results]
- [Coverage of 2014 Elections]
McMaster University - With world-renowned programs in medical studies and social sciences, this school of nearly 30,000 is recognized as one of Canada’s top public research institutions. Representing one of Ontario’s largest student bodies, the McMaster Students Association constitution stipulates that RCV will be used in presidential elections featuring more than two candidates.
Middlebury College - The first American university to grant a bachelor’s degree to an African-American student and one of the first in New England to admit men and women, this distinguished liberal arts college has a history of being ahead of the curve. Representing the interests of about 2,500 students, the Student Government Association adopted RCV in 2011. “Broadly speaking, students have been receptive to the change,” said Elections Council Chair Matthew Hall.
- [Middlebury Student Government Association Bylaws]
- [Fall 2013 Election Results]
- [Fall 2013 Election Coverage]
North Carolina State University - Since its well-received arrival in 2008, RCV has been used to elect the Student Body President, the Student Senate President, and several other key officers. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top up and coming public universities, this campus of over 34,000 was inspired to switch to ranked voting by nearby Clark, NC, which has used RCV in its mayoral elections.
Northeastern University - One of the nation's top private research institutions, Northeastern is known for its world-renowned cooperative education program. Students at Northeastern are accustomed to learning through action. When members of the student government saw a candidate could win without the majority of voter support, they took action and created a ranked choice voting system for student elections. While most student elections in recent years have been won with simple majorities, the Student Government Association has had a system prepared for multi-candidate elections since 2009.
- [See the Northeastern Student Government Association Constitution]
- [2014 Elections Guide]
- [Coverage of Spring 2013 results]
Oberlin College - As the first institute of higher education in the U.S. to offer bachelor’s degrees to women and African Americans in the mid-1800, Oberlin has a proud history of blazing the trail. Now one of the most well-respected liberal arts colleges in the region and with a student body of 2,900, Oberlin has used single transferable voting to elect its senators since 2008.
Oregon State University - With over 26,000 students, the Associated Students at Oregon State (ASOSU) represent the interests of a massive student body. To ensure that all voices are heard ASOSU made the switch to RCV for the 2014 school year, with the goal of increasing turnout. They met their goal, and then some. In its first election using instant runoff, Oregon State saw a 62% increase in turnout over the previous election.
Plymouth State University - Plymouth State University uses instant runoff voting for student government elections.
Pitzer College - A small liberal arts college in Los Angeles, Pitzer emphasizes study of social justice, intercultural understanding, and environment sensitivity. One of Pitzer’s core values is “meaningful participation of students, faculty and staff in college governance and academic program design.” In 2009 RCV was adopted for Student Senate elections, giving students more meaningful participation in student elections.
Pomona College - Consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best value schools, this prestigious liberal arts college uses RCV to elect its student government officials. Along with Pitzer and Claremont McKenna, Pomona is one of three Claremont Colleges that use RCV.
Portland State University - Portland State overwhelmingly approved of RCV for key Associated Students races 79 to 21 percent after the Student Senate unanimously passed the measure in Feb. 2005. All the major candidate slates supported RCV. In 2006, the first RCV election enabled three slates to run and resulted in a 51 to 49 percent tally between the strongest slates. RCV is currently used for the President/VP ticket and the Student Fee Committee Chair.
- [Read the Daily Vanguard's Explanation of RCV]
- [See the Associated Students of Portland State University Constitution, Article VIX]
Reed College - Reed is known as one of West Coast’s top liberal arts colleges it also famously houses a student-run nuclear reactor on campus. The Reed Student Senate has distinguished itself for its voting system as well. The presidential and vice presidential elections are conducted using RCV, and choice voting is used to elect other student leaders.
Rice University - The Rice Student Association uses RCV for single-seat elections. Rice elects a student President for each of its 10 colleges, making sure that every student is represented in the student association. With plenty of opportunities to get involved and a student body of over 6,000 students Rice sees a large number of students seeking office. One recent election for President included six candidates. RCV is also used to elect the Rice Faculty Council.
Santa Fe College – Located in Gainesville, FL, Santa Fe College became the first community college in the nation to adopt ranked choice voting for executive officers in the Student Government (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) in 2008. According the SG Supreme Court Chief Justice, Scott Cutshall, over 17,000 students are able to participate in online elections, from Santa Fe College’s 2 campuses and 6 centers.
- [See the Student Government Constitution, Article III, Section 2]
- [2008 Article about transition to RCV]
- [2014 Election Results]
Seattle University School of Law - The legal writing program at this Pacific Northwest law school is ranked first in the country by U.S. News and World Report, and the Student Bar Association is similarly innovative. The SBA adopted RCV (pg. 7) for executive and legislative offices, which are subject to annual election.
Sonoma State University - Shortly after the adoption of RCV in San Francisco, just a short drive from the Sonoma State campus, the students of Sonoma State University decided to move to RCV themselves for general elections. Sonoma State elections started using RCV in the 2004-05 academic year.
Stanford University - One of the most prestigious universities in the country, Stanford has used RCV to elect Associated Students of Stanford University executive officers and class presidents since 2001. Close to 3,500 students participated in the multi-round 2013 presidential election, the results of which you can see here.
- [See the Constitution of the Associated Students of Stanford University.]
- [2013 Election Results]
- [2014 Election Coverage]
Texas A&M University - When it comes to voter representation, Texas A&M students have a clear message: don’t mess with Texas. Representing the fourth largest student body in the United States at 58,000, the Student Government Association introduced RCV in 2013 for its senate elections.
Tufts University - Located just outside Boston, Tufts University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top schools, and the Tufts Community Union represents more than 5,000 undergraduates. Since 2003, presidential elections, TCU, and Senate in-house elections have been conducted with RCV. Read about the 2013 TCU presidential election, where RCV played a large role in determining the winner.
University of California at Berkeley - UC-Berkeley has historically been a bastion of progressive change, and the way it elects student leaders is no different. The Associated Students of the University of California adopted RCV (which it calls “alternative vote”) for executive officer elections and STV (“choice voting”) for Senate elections in 2002.
- [See Article VII of the ASUC Constitution for information on Senate elections.]
- [2014 Election Results]
- [Video: Students Watching 2014 Tabulation/Results]
University of California, Davis - With a student body of over 34,000 and the largest campus in the UC system, UC Davis is a big school with even bigger ideas. Since 2005, students have elected the President and Vice-President of the Associated Students using RCV. The Law Students Association also uses RCV at the UC Davis School of Law.
- [ASUCD Bylaws]
- [2014 Election Results]
- [Video: Students watching Tabulation/Results of 2014 Election]
University of California, Los Angeles - With more applicants per semester than any other university in the country, it’s no secret that UCLA’s 42,000 students have a lot of which to be proud. With 15 Nobel laureates, 110 NCAA team championships, and a place in the prestigious Association of American Universities, UCLA uses RCV to elect all officers. For general representative seats, UCLA uses the single transferable vote form of proportional representation. UCLA’s graduate student association also uses RCV to elect their officers which saw a huge turnout increase in 2014.
- [UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Election Code]
- [2014 Election Coverage]
- [2013 Election Coverage]
- [2014 Graduate Student Association Election Coverage]
University of California at Santa Barbara - UCSB may be known for its scenic coastal location in Southern California, but it was also an early adopter of RCV. UC Santa Barbara has used ranked choice voting for all executive offices since 2001.
University of California, San Diego - A Public Ivy recognized for one of the nation’s top surfing teams, UCSD students are making waves in election reform. The university’s 30,000 students have used RCV for to elect their President, Vice President, Academic Senators, and College Senators since 2003.
University of San Diego School of Law - Renowned for its programs in tax law and public interest practice, USD Law elects several of its student officers using RCV. With an enrollment of about 1,000 students, the Student Bar Association uses ranked choice voting to elect its President, Vice President, Vice President of Organizations, Treasurer, Secretary, ABA Chair, and ABA Vice-Chair.
University of Iowa - A vibrant community of over 30,000, this NCAA “Big Ten” powerhouse has used RCV to elect its student government president, vice-president, and senators since 2008. In the first election or ranked voting, voter turnout jumped to record-breaking levels, The Daily Iowan reporting: "A record-setting 32.53 percent of eligible students voted in the UISG electronic runoff ballot, casting 6,357 votes."
- [UISG Elections Code]
- [Read the Daily Iowan Article about RCV in U.S Universities]
- [2014 Election Results]
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – The flagship of the Minnesota University system, UMTC boasts an enrollment of almost 53,000 students. With campuses in St. Paul and Minneapolis, where RCV is used for municipal elections in both cities, it was only natural the U of M's Student Association constitution would use RCV. More than 5,000 students used ranked choice voting to elect the 2013-2014 President and Vice-President of the Minnesota Student Association. The Minnesota Daily talks about the use of RCV in the 2013 election.
University of Washington - With over 40,000 students, representing the interests of UW students is no small task, but the Associated Students of the University of Washington helps make it possible by using RCV to elect their officers. Students believe so strongly in their RCV system that some think the use of RCV should expand across the country.
University of Virginia – RCV was brought to UVA student elections in 2003. "After many irregularities during past elections, Student Council and the University conducted two investigations/reports to propose a solution to the problems seen in runoffs in student elections over the past few years." The University Board of Elections also staged a mock 2004 U.S. presidential race using RCV.
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh - Since 2003, the Assembly of the Oshkosh Student Association has used RCV to elect its speaker and speaker-pro-tempore.
Vassar College - During Sept. 2002, the Vassar Student Association voted nearly unanimously to adopt RCV and the choice voting form of full representation for future student elections. In 2004, RCV and the single transferable vote method of fair representation voting were used for the first time to elect representatives for the freshman council, campus committees, and the President. During the spring 2008 student elections, all elections were held through RCV (for the Judicial Board Representatives and Student Representatives).
- [Coverage of 2014 Elections]
- [2014 Election Results]
- [See the Vassar Student Association Constitution and Bylaws, Article X, Section 10]
Western Washington University - In 2012, WWU adopted RCV for its elections. For many years, the Student Senate has used RCV to elect its Vice-Chair and Parliamentarian.
Whitman College - The Associated Students of Whitman College represent over 1,500 students at this small liberal arts college in Walla Walla, Washington. ASWC uses ranked choice voting to elect members of the Executive Council: president, vice president, finance chair, and nominations chair. It uses the single transferable voting method of fair representation voting in multi-member districts to elect the 16 members of the Student Senate as this article in the Whitman Pioneer illustrates. Whitman’s 2014 elections had astounding turnout levels with 58% of the student body voting.
Williams College - This small liberal arts college in western Massachusetts of about 2,000 students has been around since 1793, but its voting system is at the cutting edge. The Williams Council uses RCV for all elections (pg. 30), using Big Pulse.
Other Student Organizations Using Ranked Choice Voting/Instant Runoff Voting
- Brown University South Asian Students Association - Elects some of its officers using RCV.
- University of Connecticut School of Law Law Review
The Law Review at the University of Connecticut School of Law uses RCV to elect its officers.
- University of Minnesota Computer Science Graduate Student Association - Uses instant runoff voting to elect its president, vice president, and secretary.
- University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy - Uses a “secret ballot using instant runoff voting” to elect officers for its Grad Phi community.
- University of San Francisco Graduate Business Association - Uses instant runoff voting to elect its officers.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society - Uses RCV for all of its elections.
- University of Wyoming College of Law Natural Resource Law Club - Uses RCV to elect its officers.
- University of Chicago South Side Science Scholars - Use RCV for all of their elections.
* 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.