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Using RCV now:
Basalt, Colorado: Adopted in 2002 to be used for mayoral races with three or more candidates.
Berkeley, California: Adopted in 2004 and has been used since 2010 to elect the mayor, city council and city auditor.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: In use since the 1940s in multi-winner RCV form for the nine-seat city council and six-seat school board elected citywide.
Carbondale, Colorado: Adopted in 2002 for mayoral races with three or more candidates.
Eastpointe, Michigan: Adopted to resolve a federal Voting Rights Act lawsuit and used for two city council seats (at-large, proportional) in November 2019.
Las Cruces, New Mexico: Adopted by the city council in 2018 for all municipal elections beginning in November 2019.
Maine: Adopted in 2016 and first used in 2018 for all state and federal primary elections and all general elections for Congress extended to general election for president in 2020 and presidential primaries in 2024.
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Adopted in 2006 and used since 2009, in elections for 22 city offices, including mayor and city council in single winner elections and some multi-winner park board seats.
Oakland, California: Adopted in 2006 and used since 2010 for a total of 18 city offices, including mayor and city council.
- Payson, Utah: A local options bill was passed in 2018, and the city opted-in for city council seats in November 2019 (at-large, winner take-all).
Portland, Maine: Adopted in 2010 and used since 2011 for electing mayor
San Francisco, California: Adopted in 2002 and used since 2004 to elect the mayor, city attorney, Board of Supervisors and five additional citywide offices
San Leandro, California: Adopted as option in 2000 charter amendment and used since 2010 to elect the mayor and city council
Santa Fe, New Mexico: Adopted in 2008 and used since March 2018 for mayor, city council, and municipal judge
- St. Louis Park, Minnesota: Adopted in 2018 and used since 2019 for mayor and city council races.
St. Paul, Minnesota: Adopted in 2009, used since 2011 to elect the mayor and city council
Takoma Park, Maryland: Adopted in 2006 and used since 2007 in all elections for mayor and city council
Telluride, Colorado: Adopted in 2008 for mayoral elections when at least three candidates run, as was true in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
- Vineyard, Utah: A local options bill was passed in 2018, and the city opted-in for city council seats in November 2019 (at-large, winner take-all).
- Amherst, Massachusetts: Adopted charter in 2018 with ranked choice voting and passing implementation statute before projected first use in 2021.
Benton County, Oregon: Adopted by voters in 2016 for general elections for county offices of sheriff and commissioner. It will be used in November 2020.
Easthampton, MA: Adopted in 2019 and to be used in mayoral and all single-seat city council elections starting in 2021
- New York City: Adopted in 2019 and to be used in all city primary and special elections starting in 2021.
- Palm Desert, California: Adopted January 2020 to be used for city council elections in November 2020 as part of a California Voting Rights Act settlement. One district elected in single winner elections, with the rest of the city electing in staggered two-winner multi winner elections (proportional).
Presidential Nominations (major party primaries and caucuses*):
Alaska: All voters in Democratic primary in April 2020
Nevada: Early voters in Democratic caucuses in Feb. 2020
Hawaii: All voters in Democratic primary in April 2020
Kansas: All voters in Democratic primary in May 2020
Wyoming: All voters in Democratic primary in April 2020
* Parties will conduct an RCV tally until all candidates exceed 15% of the vote
Advisory or option for future uses:
- Davis, California: adopted in 2006 as an advisory referendum for fair representation form of RCV and awaiting state law change.
- Ferndale, Michigan: adopted by voters in 2004, awaiting implementation readiness.
Memphis, Tennessee: Adopted by voters in 2008, and approved again by voters in 2018.
- Santa Clara County, California: approved in charter by voters as option in 1998.
- Sarasota, Florida: adopted by voters in 2007, awaiting implementation readiness.
- Utah: A local options bill was passed in 2018 and two cities opted in for 2019. More cities could choose to opt in for the future.
- Vancouver, Washington: approved in charter by voters as option in 1999.
For overseas voters in runoffs
- Arkansas: Adopted in 2005, first used 2006, and was extended to all local runoffs in 2007.
- Alabama: By agreement with a federal court, used in special election for U.S. House, 2013; became law for all federal primary runoffs in 2015.
- Louisiana: Adopted and used since the 1990s for state and federal general election runoffs; also includes out of state military voters.
Mississippi: Adopted in 2014 for use in federal runoffs.
South Carolina: Adopted and first used in 2006 for state and federal runoffs.
- Springfield, Illinois: Adopted in 2007 and used since 2011.
RCV on Campus
Over 50 colleges and universities in the United States use ranked choice voting to elect some or all student government positions. That means that over 700,000 students across the country are empowered with more choice in electing student leaders.
Full list of colleges and universities using RCV for student government elections
Private Organizations and Corporations
Recommended by Robert’s Rules of Order for organizational elections conducted by mail, ranked choice voting is used widely among private associations organizations. Probably its highest profile use by a private organization is in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who use RCV to nominate and select winners of the prestigious Academy Awards. Ranked choice voting in multi-winner elections is commonly used by British organizations as well.
Too many organizations use RCV for a comprehensive list. Here is a partial list of private organizations and corporations using RCV.
Public Elections Internationally
Ranked choice voting is used by every voter in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, often with the multi-winner, proportional form of it (“single transferable vote”). RCV also is used in party elections and local elections throughout the English-speaking world, including national leaders of the major conservative parties in Canada and New Zealand and major liberal parties in Canada and United Kingdom.
Examples of uses of RCV include: Australia (federal House of Representatives and nearly all state and local government elections and a multi-winner form of it for senate elections); Ireland (for president and multi-winner form for parliament and many local elections; Malta (multi-winner form for parliament; New Zealand (for mayor and city council in major cities such as Wellington, along with health board elections); Northern Ireland (multi-winner form for regional parliament and most local elections); Scotland (multi=winner form for all local government elections. In India, Nepal and Pakistan elected officials use the multi-winner from of RCV to select their national senates and in the case of India its president. Forms of RCV are also used to elect the mayor of London and president of Sri Lanka.
International election systems
Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting
Promotes Majority Support
Too often, candidates win elections despite being opposed by most voters. In elections with more than two candidates, candidates can and do win even when less than half of voters support them. For example, in Maine, 9 of the 11 gubernatorial elections between 1994 and 2014 were won with less than 50% of votes.
With ranked choice voting for single-winner offices, if no candidate has a majority in first-choices, the candidates in last place will be eliminated one-by-one. If a voter's first choice is eliminated, their vote instantly goes to their second choice. That way, we can find out which of the top candidates has real majority support.
Discourages Negative Campaigning
In non-ranked choice voting elections, candidates benefit from mudslinging and attacking their opponent instead of sharing their positive vision with voters. This can lead to increasingly toxic and polarizing campaigns.
With RCV, candidates also compete for 2nd choice votes from their opponents’ supporters which lessens the incentive to run a negative campaign. In RCV contests, candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents.
Voters in RCV cities report more positive campaigning and greater satisfaction with their elections. See our Research on RCV page for more on campaign civility.
Provides More Choice for Voters
Democracy is strongest when more voices are heard.
Often, to avoid “vote splitting” in which candidates win with very little support, efforts are taken to limit the number of candidates who compete. In some places, that means a low-turnout primary election eliminates most of the candidates; in others it means restrictive ballot access laws keep out challengers; and in others it means that candidates are shamed into staying out of the race for fear of splitting the vote with another similar candidate.
Ranked Choice Voting allows more than two candidates to compete without fear of “splitting the vote” among like-minded individuals.
Saves Money When Replacing Primaries or Runoffs
Many local offices are elected in two rounds of elections. In some cases this is a primary which winnows the field to two followed by a general election. In other cases it is a general election followed by a runoff election if no candidate has a majority.
In either case, the election that takes place on a day other than the general Election Day often suffers from weak and unrepresentative turnout, while raising issues of vote splitting in the first round and the possibility of disenfranchising military and overseas voters.
With ranked choice voting, a jurisdiction can get the benefit of two rounds of voting in a single, more representative, higher turnout election. That is why ranked choice voting is also known as “instant runoff voting.”
In this context, RCV can save the jurisdiction a lot of money - the entire cost of a second election - while helping promote majority rule and civil campaigning. This has been the motivation for the adoption of RCV in places like San Francisco (replacing runoffs) and Minneapolis (replacing primaries).
See our Research on RCV page for more on the benefits of RCV over two-round runoffs.
Promotes Reflective Representation
Compared to winner-take-all elections, ranked choice voting in multi-winner contests allows more diverse groups of voters to elect candidates of choice. This promotes diversity of political viewpoint as well as diversity of candidate background and demographics. Even in single-winner races, ranked choice voting can promote the representation of historically under-represented groups like racial and ethnic minorities and women.
See our Research on RCV page for more on reflective representation in single-winner contests.
See our Fair Representation Voting section for details on how RCV improves representation in multi-winner contests.
Minimizes Strategic Voting
Voters should be able to vote for candidates they support, not just vote against candidates they oppose most. In elections without ranked choice voting, voters may feel that they need to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” because their favorite candidate is less likely to win.
With RCV, voters can honestly rank candidates in order of choice. Voters know that if their first choice doesn’t win, their vote automatically counts for their next choice instead. This frees voters from worrying about how others will vote and which candidates are more or less likely to win.
Increased Participation from Military and Overseas Voters
Protecting the right to vote for men and women serving overseas in the armed forces or living abroad is of the highest importance. Deployed military and other overseas voters encounter particular challenges during runoff elections and presidential nominating contests, largely because of their timing.
Federal law requires states to provide military and overseas voters with ballots at least 45 days before any federal election, but runoff elections require a new set of ballots. Sending a second set of ballots requires an enormous delay, driving down turnout in the runoff election.
In presidential primaries and caucuses, many candidates withdraw quickly after the first few primaries, before military and overseas ballots can be counted. Subsequent primaries may receive military and overseas ballots cast for candidates no longer in the race because those voters mailed their ballots before learning that their favorite candidate left the race.
With RCV ballots, a military or overseas voter can rank the candidates on a single ballot. If a runoff occurs, or if candidates drop out of a presidential contest, the ranked ballot is counted for whichever candidate in the runoff the overseas voter ranked highest.
Five states use RCV ballots to include overseas and military voters in runoff elections: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In addition, Springfield, IL has adopted this reform for local races.
For more information, see FairVote's Policy Guide for RCV ballots for military and overseas voters.
How RCV Works
Ranked choice voting (RCV) describes voting systems that allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and then uses those rankings to elect candidates who best represent their constituents.
RCV is straightforward for voters: rank candidates in order of choice. Voters can rank as many candidates as they want, without fear that ranking others will hurt the chances of their favorite candidate.
How the votes are counted depends on whether RCV is used to elect a single office, like a mayor or governor, or whether it is used to elect more than one position at once, like an at-large city council or a state legislature elected in a multi-winner district.
RCV for Single-Winner Offices
(also known as Instant Runoff Voting / IRV)
For a single office, like for a mayor or governor, RCV helps to elect a candidate who reflects a majority of voters in a single election even when several viable candidates are in the race. It does this by counting the votes in rounds.
If a candidate receives more than half of the first choice votes, they win, just like in any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choice votes, the race enters the runoff phase. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half of the votes. This video demonstrates the process:
RCV for Multi-Winner Elections
(also known as Single Transferable Vote / STV)
Ranked choice voting can be used in multi-winner elections, like a city council elected at-large, a state legislature elected in a multi-winner district, or even the US House of Representatiaves.
Multi-winner RCV is a fair representation voting system, meaning it gives like-minded voters the chance to win legislative seats in proportion to their share of the population. With multi-winner ranked choice voting, candidates who receive a certain share of votes will be elected; this share of votes is called the threshold. A candidate who reaches the threshold is elected, and any excess votes over the threshold are then counted for the voters’ second choices. Then, after excess votes are counted, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until all seats are filled.
This video from YouTube educator CGP Grey demonstrates the process:
For a more detailed explanation, including a table showing results from a hypothetical election, see our Multi-Winner RCV Example page.
For details on how this could work to transform the U.S. House of Representatives into a much more effective and representative body, see the Fair Representation Act.
What is ranked choice voting?
Ranked choice voting (RCV) is used in cities and states across the country. It’s easy and allows for true voter expression because it lets voters rank candidates in order of choice. Those rankings ensure that as many voters as possible will help elect a candidate they support.
RCV has a long history, and is currently used in U.S. elections in cities nationwide including: Cambridge, Massachusetts, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro, and mostly recently in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since 2018, RCV has been used for elections to federal offices by the entire state of Maine. Additionally, five states and one city use ranked choice ballots to ensure that overseas and military voters can fully express their choices in elections that may go to a runoff.
Globally, RCV is widely used in the English-speaking world, including in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. Its single-winner method is recommended by Robert’s Rules of Order for elections when repeated voting is impractical and, as a result, is widely used in non-governmental elections.
Is ranked choice voting the same as instant runoff voting/single transferable vote/preference voting/the alternative vote?
Yes. The terms "instant runoff voting (IRV)," "single transferable vote (STV)," "preference voting," and "the alternative vote," all refer to ranked choice voting.
Usually, the term "instant runoff voting" or "IRV" only refers to electing a single-winner office like mayor or governor, because when used to elect one candidate, RCV allows a jurisdiction to have the benefits of multiple runoff elections, but voters only need to vote once.
The term "single transferable vote" or "STV" usually refers to electing a multi-winner office, like a city council or legislature. It is a "single" vote, because every voter has one vote - as compared with block voting, in which voters may vote for more than one candidate if more than one will be elected - and it is a "transferable" vote, because it uses round-by-round tabulation in which votes may "transfer" from candidates who are elected or who are defeated in the prior round.
See our glossary for more details and other terms.
Why is ranked choice voting better?
Ranked choice voting (RCV) has a number of benefits which include rewarding candidates who can gain broad support, incentivizing positive campaigning, and providing voters with more choices. In multi-winner districts, RCV promotes fairer and more inclusive representation than winner-take-all methods. For example, the Fair Representation Act for Congress would help ensure that representatives to Congress better represent the full spectrum of voter opinion in the United States and have more incentive to work across party lines in the interest of their constituents.
For more detail, see Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting and Problems RCV Can Help Solve.
How does ranked choice voting work?
Voters get to rank candidates in order of choice. If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices, they win, just like any other election. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice.This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half of the votes. In single-winner elections, like for mayor or governor, that means ranked choice voting helps to elect a candidate with majority (50% +1) support. In multi-winner ranked choice voting elections smaller groups of voters together elect one of the winners.
To see how ranked choice voting works in detail, see How Ranked Choice Voting Works.
Where is ranked choice voting used?
Ranked choice voting has been used for federal elections in Maine and for municipal elections in 13 U.S. cities. It is also slated for use by seven additional cities in their upcoming election cycle - bringing the total number of states using RCV to 10. Additionally, five states use RCV for overseas and military voters, particularly in places with runoff elections. More than 50 U.S. colleges and universities use ranked choice voting to elect student government officers. Internationally, it is used by every voter in six countries and in local elections in many more. Ranked choice voting is recommended for private organizations by Roberts Rules of Order, and many private organizations use it, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for both nominating and selecting the winners of its prestigious “Oscar” awards. For more information, see the following resources:
Ranked Choice Voting in U.S. Elections
Ranked Choice Voting on Campus
Ranked Choice Voting in Private Organizations and Corporations
International Election Systems
What about other “alternative” voting reforms, like Top Two, party list proportional representation, cumulative voting, approval voting, or others?
There are many ways to elect representatives. Although they all have some benefits and some flaws, FairVote has identified ranked choice voting as the most empowering and effective voting method for use in United States elections, from city councils to Congress. To learn more about other methods, see the following resources:
For other forms of proportional representation, see Other Fair Voting Methods
For our research and critique of “Top Two,” see Top Four
For alternative single-winner election methods like approval voting, see Alternatives to Ranked Choice Voting
Ask a question
Research on Ranked Choice Voting
The following briefly describes and links to research on the use of ranked choice voting. This page was last updated April, 2019. For more detailed information, check out our research page on ranked choice voting.
Taken together, this research suggests that ranked choice voting, whether used in single-winner or multi-winner elections, helps promote inclusive and civil campaigning, and that voters of all demographics use it effectively. When used in multi-winner elections, it also promotes fair representation and good governance based on a variety of metrics.
Independent scholarly research
Self-Reported Understanding of Ranked-Choice Voting
Todd Donovan (Western Washington University), Caroline Tolbert (University of Iowa), and Kellen Gracey (University of Iowa)
Available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ssqu.12651
- Researchers conducted an immediate post-election survey of voters in four California jurisdictions that used RCV in November, 2014, while simultaneously surveying voters in similar California jurisdictions electing with single-choice plurality. The surveys asked voters how well they understood voting instructions and how well they understood various electoral systems including ranked choice voting, plurality voting, "winner-take-all voting rules" and the state's top two primary system. The results did not show any significant racial or ethnic differences in understanding of either voting instructions or electoral systems.
Campaign civility under preferential and plurality voting
Todd Donovan (Western Washington University), Caroline Tolbert (University of Iowa), and Kellen Gracey (University of Iowa)
Available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261379416000299
- In November 2013, 2,400 likely voters in 10 cities were surveyed about their local elections. Three cities had just held local elections using RCV (Minneapolis and St. Paul (MN) and Cambridge (MA)), and seven control cities had used plurality voting in their November elections. The surveys show that likely voters in cities that used RCV were more satisfied with the conduct of local campaigns than people in similar cities with plurality (first-past-the-post) elections, and were more likely to have in-person contact with candidates for office. People in cities with RCV were also less likely to view campaigns as negative, and less likely to respond that candidates were frequently criticizing each other. The results are consistent across a series of robustness checks.
Voter participation with ranked choice voting in the United States
David C. Kimball (University of Missouri-St. Louis) and Joseph Anthony
Available at http://www.umsl.edu/~kimballd/KimballRCV.pdf
- This study examines the degree to which voters turn out to vote and properly cast their votes, comparing ranked choice voting to plurality voting in the United States. It compares demographically similar cities with RCV and plurality voting. It finds that RCV helps increase voter participation in decisive elections when reducing the substantial drop in voter participation that commonly occurs between primary and general elections and between first round and runoff elections, but otherwise does not appear to have a strong positive or negative impact on voter turnout and ballot completion. In a case study of Minneapolis, it finds similar levels of socioeconomic and racial disparities in voter participation in plurality as in RCV elections. The study found no increase in total residual voters (meaning total ballots where voters skipped voting in the election or invalidated their ballot in that election) compared to non-RCV elections. This is particularly significant finding in California city elections with RCV, because they are held at the same time as non-RCV races like president or governor that appear first on the ballot and are the bigger drivers of participation. Kimball and Anthony have updated their research for presentation at the September 2016 American Political Science Association conference and are preparing to submit their work for publication in the fall.
The alternative vote: Do changes in single-member voting systems affect descriptive representation of women and minorities?
Sarah John, Haley Smith and Elizabeth Zack
Available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261379417304006
- This study compares cities with ranked choice voting in the California Bay Area to a series of similar control cities. Using a difference-in-difference research design, it shows that applying ranked choice voting to single-winner elections has not caused any decline in descriptive representation, and has improved representation of women and women of color.
Ranked choice voting in 2018: A mid-year report
Available at https://www.fairvote.org/ranked_choice_voting_in_2018_a_mid_year_report
- This white paper summarizes and analyzes various data points from elections taking place between March and June of 2018, including in Santa Fe (NM), San Francisco (CA), and in Maine's state and federal primary elections. In particular, voter turnout surpassed expectations in all three jurisdictions, implementation of RCV was smooth and inexpensive, voters used the ballot well, and winners demonstrated both strong core support and broad back-up support.
Voter experience with ranked choice voting in San Francisco: Voter turnout and use of rankings, 2004-2016
Available at https://www.fairvote.org/voter_experience_with_ranked_choice_voting_in_san_francisco
- This report analyzes data from the 68 ranked choice voting elections that took place in San Francisco from 2004-2016. It finds that San Francisco voters have generally made effective use of the ranked choice ballot despite the limitations of San Francisco's legacy voting equipment, especially compared to the prior system based on two-round runoff elections. In contests with multiple candidates that required multiple rounds of counting, voters are increasingly likely to rank second and third choices; 74.5 percent of ballots rank at least two candidates and 60.8 percent rank three (the maximum allowed on the San Francisco ballot). Skipped rankings are rare and have become rare over time. Overvotes are also rare, and occur at comparable rates to non-RCV races with similar numbers of candidates.
Structural electoral reform: Impact, methods, and opportunities
Available at http://www.fairvote.org/comparative-structural-reform
- This 2015 report presents an extensive assessment of the potential impact of 37 structural reforms to election laws and legislative structures in collaboration with fourteen prominent political scientists. The participating scholars were asked to assess each reform’s impact on 16 different criteria fitting within four topline categories: legislative functionality, electoral accountability, voter engagement, and openness of process. In the scholars’ assessment, the three structural reforms that would have the greatest positive impact on U.S. democracy are two forms of multi-winner RCV (ranked choice voting in five-winner districts, and ranked choice voting in three-winner districts) and Districts Plus (a form of mixed-member proportional representation). Single winner forms of RCV were also judged to have a positive impact compared to many of the other reforms that were analyzed. The report also includes background information on each reform with links to a large number of scholarly resources.
Ranked choice voting and racial minority voting rights
Available at https://www.fairvote.org/rcv_and_racial_minority_voting_rights_in_the_bay_area
- Assessment of the election rates of people of color in the California Bay Area before and after the adoption of RCV. People of color hold office at a higher rate under RCV than under the prior system. People of color win office more often under RCV across three ways of categorizing districts: plurality-minority (districts where one ethnic minority group is the largest in the district); white-plurality (districts where ethnic minority groups are collectively in the majority but whites are the single largest group); and white-majority.
Ranked choice voting in practice: Candidate civility in ranked choice elections, 2013 & 2014 survey brief
Available at https://fairvote.app.box.com/v/APSA-Civility-Brief-2015
- The Eagleton Poll at Rutgers University conducted two polls—one in 2013 and another in 2014—that explore the impact of RCV on city elections in the United States. In both surveys, more respondents in cities using RCV reported candidates spent less time criticizing opponents than in cities that did not use RCV. More respondents in cities using RCV reported less negative campaigns than in cities that did not use RCV. In the 2013 survey, 90% of respondents in RCV cities found the RCV ballot easy to understand; 89% of respondents in RCV cities in California found the RCV ballot easy to understand. A majority of all respondents in both surveys believed RCV should be used in local elections in their city. Support was greatest in cities already using RCV.
Voter understanding and use of ranked choice voting
Available at https://fairvote.app.box.com/v/RCVunderstandingmemo
- This memo focuses on voter experience with RCV in U.S. cities, based on analysis of RCV ballots after they were cast and public opinion surveys. It summarizes research suggesting that voters understand RCV at levels comparable other systems (like the “Top Two” primary used in California and Washington) and that they readily use the option to rank candidates for local offices. It provides detailed information on overvote and undervote rates in RCV elections. Notably, more than 99% of voters in Bay Area elections cast an RCV ballot that counts and more than eight in ten rank more than one candidate in competitive multi-candidate mayoral elections.
Impact of ranked choice voting on representation: How ranked choice voting affects women and people of color in California
Available at https://fairvote.app.box.com/v/RCV-Representation-BayArea
- This study examines the effect of ranked choice voting on women and people of color running for elected office in the California Bay Area. San Francisco began using RCV in 2004 for their city elections, followed by Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro in 2010. Women and people of color hold more than 80% of these cities’ 52 offices that have been elected by RCV. The findings of the study reveal that RCV increases descriptive representation for women, people of color, and women of color. Some reasons for RCV’s positive effects can be related to how often it replaces low, unrepresentative turnout elections and that it allows for multiple candidates appealing to the same community to run without splitting the vote. The unambiguously positive impact of RCV on descriptive representation encourages further study.
Escaping the thicket: The ranked choice voting solution to America’s districting crisis
Available at https://fairvote.app.box.com/v/EscapingtheThicket
- In this law review article, FairVote staff make the case for the use of multi-winner districts with ranked choice voting for U.S. congressional elections. It reviews the history of plurality voting in U.S. congressional elections, and how this emphasis on single-winner elections intersects with the Voting Rights Act, which makes vote dilution of racial and ethnic minority populations illegal. In some cases brought under the Voting Rights Act, jurisdictions have adopted semi-proportional voting methods rather than the use of single-winner districts. The articles reviews what makes those voting methods most effective, and concludes that they would have their most potent application in congressional elections. It lays out a proposal for multi-winner districts with ranked choice voting for congressional elections and describes its likely impact.
The Fair Representation Act report
Available at https://www.fairvote.org/fair_representation_act_report
- This report analyzes the impact of a series of hypothetical district maps generated by Auto-Redistrict, an open source redistricting algorithm programmed to approximate the requirements of the Fair Representation Act of 2017, HR 3057. It assumes the use of multi-winner ranked choice voting, as required by the bill, in the automatically generated multi-winner district maps. It finds that the system implemented by the bill would result in greater competition and accountability, more accurate and actual representation, great opportunities for moderates and independents, and better descriptive representation.
Resources and Links
RCV Toolkit for Local Activists
FairVote is developing a toolkit for local activists to help them bring RCV to their state, county, city, campus, or organization. It includes resources for community assessment, for education, for outreach, and other resources.
Our toolkit for activists: RCV in Your Community
Our toolkit for RCV on campus: RCV on Campus
Our brochure: Ranked Choice Voting: Vote-Count-Elect
Online RCV Election/Polling Tools
OpaVote allows you to run secure, reliable organizational elections using either single-winner or multi-winner RCV. Check out an example of their embeddable ranked choice voting widget here. You can also run polls to educate voters, and post them on social media. Here is a great example of a poll we created for the 2018 World Cup. Here are the results.
RCV and Civility Study
In 2013, FairVote received a generous grant from the Democracy Fund to conduct a comprehensive two-year study of the impact of ranked choice voting (RCV) on campaign cooperation and civility in local elections in the U.S. Research conducted by the Eagleton Poll at Rutgers University and a core team of four academics led by Professor Caroline Tolbert of the University of Iowa found that voters in cities with RCV were more satisfied with candidate conduct and perceived less candidate criticism and negativity. A review of newspaper coverage also demonstrated more positive coverage in RCV cities than non-RCV cities in 2013. In RCV city, RCV was supported by a majority of voters who expressed an opinion.
The Ranked Choice Voting and Civility Project.
2015 report on RCV in cities.
2014 Eagleton Poll RCV Survey Results.
Testimony and Presentations
FairVote staff and supporters have provided written and oral testimony in support of RCV in a variety of contexts.
Rob Richie: letter of support for Hawaii bill adopting RCV for vacancy elections
FairVote: Testimony for the Democratic Party Platform Committee on RCV in presidential primaries and other contexts
Rob Richie: brief to the Canadian Special Committee on Electoral Reform providing information on RCV in the U.S. context
FairVote: testimony on Potomac Compact for Fair Representation and other redistricting bills in Maryland
FairVote, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County: testimony on Maryland local options bill for Montgomery County vacancy elections
Drew Spencer: testimony on RCV in Massachusetts
Drew Spencer and Grace Ramsey: testimony on RCV for school board vacancy elections in Montgomery County, Maryland
Dania Korkor's 2015 presentation to Road Scholar on RCV for Congress
Rob Richie: testimony to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on RCV ballots for military and overseas voters
Drew Spencer: testimony on multi-winner RCV in Montgomery County, Maryland
FairVote: testimony on RCV in multi-winner districts in Virginia
2013 or earlier
Devin McCarthy and Drew Spencer's 2013 testimony on RCV in multi-winner districts in Maryland
Rob Richie's 2010 presentation on RCV in Portland, Maine
Rob Richie's 2009 testimony on RCV in New York State
FairVote has worked with experienced attorneys and legislative drafters to ensure that its model legislation meets best practices.
Model state statute or city ordinance (single and multi-seat RCV)
Model Constitutional amendment or city charter amendment
Legislation from Other Jurisdictions
Maine: text of citizen initiative for ranked choice voting
Berkeley (CA) charter provision
Oakland (CA) charter provision
San Francisco (CA) charter provision
San Leandro (CA) city ordinance
Memphis (TN) charter provision
Minneapolis (MN) charter provision
Minneapolis (MN) city ordinance
St. Paul (MN) city ordinance
Portland (ME) charter provision
Takoma Park (MD) city ordinance
Telluride (CO) ballot measure (Question 202)
Santa Fe (NM) city charter (Sec. 4.06)
Ballot usability is an important aspect of any successful election. FairVote has developed a sample ranked choice voting ballot based on best practices in usability. We also highlight approaches taken by actual jurisdictions in designing ranked ballots to highlight key decisions that went into our sample ballot.
FairVote's Sample RCV Ballot
Ballots from Other Jurisdictions
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.
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.
FairVote supports election administrators in their goal to make RCV elections as easy as possible for voters and poll-workers and ensuring that everyone involved can be confident in the security and accuracy of the results. See our page on RCV and election administration for even more resources.
Resources for Administrators
Ranked Voting Guidelines, by Chris Jerdonek, Ph.D. (2007)
Report on RCV and Election Integrity
Sample RCV ballot
RCV ballot counting options
Sample RFP language (short)
Sample RFP language (long)
Voter Education Materials
Ranked Choice Voting & Under-Represented Communities (trifold brochure)
RCV 101 handout