RCV on Campus

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--for their student government elections. RCV can be adopted and implemented in both single and multi-seat elections. With over 90 colleges using RCV, more than 1.7 million students across the country are empowered with more choice in electing student leaders. Fairvote continues to keep a list of universities and student organizations that use RCV.

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RCV for Student Government

FairVote works with schools that have adopted ranked choice voting to study how it is operating and how we can assist with future student government reform. If your school is interested in adopting RCV, email us at [email protected]

When Electing Single One Candidate

For a single office, like student body president, RCV helps to elect a candidate more reflective of a majority of students in a single election even when several viable candidates are in the race. 

When Electing More than One Candidate

Ranked choice voting is the form of proportional representation most commonly used for student elections in the United States. While the winner-take-all systems currently found at most schools allow dominant groups to sweep the vast majority of seats, ranked choice voting lets smaller student groups consolidate their support and win representation. When implemented at colleges and universities, ranked choice voting has typically resulted in more diverse legislative bodies, greater student engagement, and increased turnout.

Sample Ranked Choice Voting Motion

WHEREAS Title ____, Chapter ____, Section ____ of the by-laws reads "[the current text providing for plurality or runoff elections]," and

WHEREAS [any problem the SGA has faced; ex: runoff elections cost the SGA $XXXX for each instance; candidates have won races with less than majority support of the campus in recent elections; voter turnout has declined for runoffs in recent elections, etc.]

WHEREAS instant runoff voting ensures that a candidate wins an election with majority support without the need for a runoff election, while encouraging positive campaigning,

BE IT ENACTED that Title ___, Chapter ____, Sections ___ of the by-laws be amended to read:

Section ____ For the purposes of this chapter, the following definitions shall apply:

"Ranked Choice Voting" means a method of casting and tabulating votes that simulates the ballot counts that would occur if all voters participated in a series of runoff elections with one candidate eliminated after each round of counting. In elections using the Ranked Choice Voting method, voters may rank the candidates in order of preference.

"Advancing candidate" means a candidate who has not been eliminated.

"Continuing ballot" means a ballot that is not an exhausted ballot.

"Exhausted ballot" means a ballot on which there are no choices marked other than choices for eliminated candidates.

Section ____ For the offices of [SGA President, Vice President, Trustee, Area Government Officers, and all single-seat Senate races], the ballots shall be counted by the method of ranked choice voting, prescribed herein:

1. The initial round of counting shall be a count of the first choices marked on each ballot.  If any candidate receives a majority of the first choices, that candidate shall be declared the winner, pending ratification.

2. If no candidate receives a majority of first choices, there shall be a second round of counting.  The last-place candidate shall be eliminated, and all the continuing ballots shall be recounted.  Each continuing ballot shall be counted as one vote for that ballot’s highest ranked advancing candidate.

3. If no candidate receives a majority at the second round of counting, there shall be a third round of counting, continuing in the manner prescribed above.

4. The process of eliminating the last-place candidates and recounting all the continuing ballots shall continue until one candidate receives a majority of the votes in a round.  The candidate who receives a majority of the votes in a round shall be declared the winner, pending ratification.

5. When a ballot does not list a preference for any given round, it shall not be counted in that round or any subsequent round.

6. If there are not sufficient second and lower choices for any candidate to receive a majority, the candidate with the highest number of votes shall be declared the winner, pending ratification.

7. When a ballot becomes an exhausted ballot it shall not be counted in that round or any subsequent round.


TIP: If all expenditures must be approved by a budget or ways & means committee, check if you need to include an additional resolution to appropriate any necessary funds for equipment upgrades or voter education.

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