Research Reports

A Survey and Analysis of Statewide Election Recounts, 2000-2019

Posted on November 04, 2020

The ability to handle a recount of votes to ensure fair, accurate and genuinely democratic outcomes is widely recognized as a critical component of election administration. Trust in elections requires trust in the recount process and ongoing learning about how best to conduct recounts and determine what victory margins and post-elections audit results should trigger a recount.

This report examines 20 years of statewide election recounts and finds that recounts which change the outcome of an election are exceedingly rare and require very narrow margins of victory. The report includes FairVote's recommendations for state recount laws and post-election audit procedures.

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Ranked Choice Voting in Maine Key Statistics from Maine’s Second use of RCV in Federal and State Primaries July 2020

Posted on September 17, 2020

Maine held its second cycle of primary elections using ranked choice voting (RCV) in July 2020. Nine state and federal races used RCV, including the hotly-contested Republican primary for the second congressional district, for which FairVote conducted RCV polling prior to the election.

This report examines the election results based on ballot data. Each of the RCV races had high turnout, strong use of rankings by voters, and low ballot error. In addition, the report compares our poll findings with election results, demonstrating that RCV polling is reliable and accurate.


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Ranked Choice Voting in 2020 Presidential Primary Elections

Posted on July 22, 2020

Five state Democratic parties used ranked choice voting (RCV) in presidential primary elections and caucuses in 2020 with great success. Despite a global pandemic, all five states had high rates of success with RCV and, especially in the four states where all voters used RCV, secured accurate and comprehensive election results.

This report examines the results from those states based on ballot data. Results show that voters overwhelmingly took advantage of the option to rank candidates on the ballot, made very few errors, and turned out in large numbers. In a year when millions of early voters in states without RCV cast ballots for presidential candidates who had withdrawn by the time they were counted, RCV made more votes count.

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The Constitutional Justification for the Fair Representation Act

Posted on June 01, 2020

In this analysis, Pamela Keller makes the case for the constitutionality of the The Fair Representation Act (FRA, H.R. 4000). The FRA would require every state to elect Congressional representatives through a form of ranked choice voting known as the “single transferable vote”, use multi-winner rather than single-winner districts, and adopt independent redistricting commissions to draw the new multi-winner districts. 

As the name suggests, the FRA aims to create a more fair system for all states and is a constitutional and necessary regulation of federal elections by Congress that will bring about a new era of proportional representation to match the dynamic and developing opinions and identities of our nation.



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Uncompetitive and Unrepresented: Voters Locked out of Representation

Posted on April 17, 2020

In this short analysis, we attempt to estimate the number of voters utterly locked out of representation: those who prefer one party but live in a district that is safe for the opposite party. We do so using the partisanship metric from Monopoly Politics along with estimates of eligible voter populations from the United States census. We find that approximately 70 million eligible voters are in that very situation. In a political system that prioritizes geography over all else, the only representative they can call "theirs" goes into Congress to vote against their political interests. This is a severe weakness of our winner-take-all system for electing Congress, one that is largely corrected by the adoption of a multi-winner fair representation system.

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The History of Ranked Choice Voting in Maine

Posted on December 13, 2019

The movement for ranked choice voting (RCV) has seen a number of successes over the past few years. One of the greatest examples comes from the state of Maine. While well worth the fight, Maine’s transition to RCV required repeated struggles by the state’s voters against numerous challenges, both legislative and in court. The tumult led one court to claim, “[t]he history of ranked-choice voting in Maine to date could provide the substance of an entire civics course on the creation of statutory law in the State of Maine.” This report follows the story of the implementation and use of RCV in Maine with the aim of highlighting instructive examples of wins and setbacks to serve as a roadmap for RCV advocates across the country.

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Federal Primary Election Runoffs and Voter Turnout Decline

Posted on October 18, 2019

Primary runoff elections are held after an initial election when no candidate surpasses a predetermined vote threshold (typically 50%, although lower in some states). In a runoff, the top two vote recipients from the initial round compete, and the candidate who receives the most votes in the runoff becomes the party’s nominee.

Runoffs increase the likelihood that a party’s nominee is representative of the party’s primary voters. They also give voters in the first round an enhanced ability to express their preferences without “wasting” their votes on a candidate whom they prefer, but who has little chance of winning. In a runoff system, voters can vote for the candidate they most strongly support in the first election. If that candidate advances to the runoff, the voters can back them again. If that candidate does not advance to the runoff, voters can then express their preference for whichever of the top two candidates they prefer.

Perhaps the most problematic aspect of runoff elections is the decrease in voter turnout for the runoff stage of the primary. Decreased turnout dilutes the main benefit of a runoff: improving representation by allowing voters in primaries to select a candidate with broad popular support. In the United States, primary runoff turnout rates often plunge so low that the democratic legitimacy of the elections is cast into doubt.

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History of Congressional Elections

Posted on February 06, 2019

In the coming months, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia plans to reintroduce the Fair Representation Act, reviving the bold new vision for congressional elections originally put forth in his 2017 legislation by the same name.

Multi-member congressional districts with ranked choice voting remain new ideas to many, but the proposals are increasingly gaining traction among elected officials and news media, including the editorial board of The New York Times. Moreover, the idea is not a new one. Each element drew upon a rich history of local, state, and federal approaches to elections. Finally, its approach was consistent with centuries of congressional action to address problems in federal elections

In this white paper, we show how that history evolved since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, along with how progress has stalled since 1967. With the dysfunction of the current system more apparent each election cycle, the time has come to revisit how we elect the "People's House."

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America's Primary Problem

Posted on December 17, 2018

According to the civics class model of American democracy, every two years voters pick a representative in Congress from the nominees of the two major parties. With two candidates, the winner is guaranteed to have the support of the majority. To provide even more choice, voters pick the party nominee in primary elections. American elections are open to any political party, but Americans by tradition consistently prefer Democrats and Republicans. As this analysis of the 2016 election returns for the U.S. House of Representatives demonstrates, almost every element of the civics class model is at odds with the facts.

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Ranked Choice Voting's Moment in Ann Arbor

Posted on September 10, 2018


The story of ranked choice voting in Ann Arbor, Michigan is one of conflict, compromise and collapse. It’s the story of a group of college students—radical in their political beliefs and newly emboldened by the Vietnam war—who formed a third party and aggressively challenged establishment politics. It’s also the story of an election night as dramatic as any, a contest decided by a handful of votes that elected the city’s first (and, to date, only) black mayor. And finally, it’s a story of powerful backlash, swift enough to repeal RCV in Ann Arbor just two years after its adoption.

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