RCV Ballot Design

Ballot presenting a grid of ballot options, giving voters up to six rankings for six candidates. RCV Ballot Design

The most critical piece of voter education in an RCV election is the ballot itself: its instructions, how voters record their preferences, and the general design of the ballot. As part of its project with the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center and FairVote, the Center for Civic Design released a usability report describing best practices for ranked choice voting ballots. They include:

Although a variety of ballot styles exist, the most usable paper ballot option that allows voters to rank all candidates and can be read by existing optical scan voting systems is the grid layout, as shown in the sample contest above.

Images of each of the ballots designed and tested by the Center for Civic Design may be viewed and downloaded here. The full report from the Center for Civic Design may be viewed and downloaded here (ballot design begins on page 44).

Ballots from Other Jurisdictions

The following ballots demonstrate a good approach to the use of optical scan ballots in RCV elections:

Alaska - 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary
A similar ballot design was used across the four states where Democrats used RCV to conduct their presidential primary elections.

Maine - 2018 Democratic primaries for Governor and Representative to Congress (District 2)
Maine used RCV for all state and federal primary elections and all federal general elections for the first time in 2018. The Democratic primary for Governor had the largest number of candidates. This ballot was designed for use with voting equipment from ES&S, the largest vendor of voting equipment in the United States.

Santa Fe, New Mexico - 2018 municipal election
Santa Fe used RCV for mayor and city council for the first time in March, 2018. This ballot was designed for use with voting equipment from Dominion, the second largest vendor of voting equipment in the United States.


The following ballots demonstrate approaches taken in other contexts and can be helpful for contrast or when considering special circumstances, such as being limited to non-grid ballot styles, or having the option to write in rankings:

Minneapolis, MN: 2009 Mayor and City Council
Minneapolis is limited 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.

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