When most people think of ‘ranked choice voting’ (RCV), they think of single-winner ranked choice voting, where once the votes are tabulated, only one candidate wins. However, there is a form of ranked choice voting wherein multiple candidates can win who reflect the ideological makeup of the community. This is called ‘proportional ranked choice voting’ (or ‘single transferable vote’ abroad). This visual explainer goes over how proportional ranked choice voting works.
As ranked choice voting continues to gain momentum, an increasing number of local governments are turning to ranked choice voting to ensure that bodies such as city councils and school boards are representative of their population. While single-winner RCV is the best method for electing individual offices, like Mayors and Governors, proportional RCV is the gold standing for choosing members of a legislature! Proportional RCV results in an outcome that represents the makeup of the electorate. It ensures that the majority rules because they choose the majority of legislators and provides fair representation for political minorities.
A great example of proportional RCV in action is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge has used proportional RCV to elect its City Council and School Committee since 1941. On a regular basis, Cambridge elects candidates from historically underrepresented communities. Research shows that over 99% of voters see their first, second, or third choice candidates elected to office in a proportional representation election.
In the last few years, proportional RCV elections have also been held in Arden, Delaware; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Eastpointe, Michigan. Abroad, it is used to elect the legislatures of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as the Australian Senate.
Overall, proportional RCV has a strong history of success everywhere it has been used and is a great option for certain elected bodies. The future of proportional RCV is also strong. This November, Portland, Oregon residents will have an opportunity to vote to implement four geographic City Council districts, each with three council members elected with proportional RCV. You can learn more about Portland here.