What is Ranked Choice Voting?

How Ranked Choice Voting Works

In Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), voters rank as many candidates as they want in order of preference. If any candidate has a majority (more than half) of the first preference votes, then that candidate is elected. Otherwise the RCV process builds a majority by eliminating the least-supported candidates and transferring ballots cast for the those eliminated to the voters’ next preference.

Marking the Ballot

For voters, Ranked Choice Voting is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3. Just rank your choices in order of preference. This sample ballot shows a voter who preferred Alice first, Carol second, and Bob third.

Counting the Votes

RCV ballots are counted in a series of rounds. First, all the first choices are counted; if any candidate has a majority of votes, (more than 50%) that candidate wins. Otherwise, the last place candidate (the candidate with the fewest votes) is eliminated and any votes cast for that candidate are transferred to the voter’s next preference. (if the voter chose to rank more candidates) After each round of counting, we check again to see if any candidate has won a majority. If not, again, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and there is another round of counting. Candidates continue to be eliminated after each count until one candidate has won the majority.

Multi-winner Races

Ranked Choice Voting can also be used to elect multiple candidates at a time, such as elections for At-large City Council. For more details, check out this multi-winner RCV example provided by our friends at FairVote.

Where Ranked Choice Voting is Used

Ranked Choice Voting has been used for political elections throughout the US and around the world, including: Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

In the United States

Ranked Choice Voting has been enacted or used for political elections in 20 states.

  • The State of Maine uses Ranked Choice Voting to elect candidates to the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and in party primaries for state offices.
  • Alaska uses Ranked Choice Voting in its general elections for U.S. President/Vice President, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Governor/Lieutenant Governor, and all state representatives and state senators.
  • Six more states use Ranked Choice Voting for military and overseas voters to participate in runoff elections: Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
  • New York City uses Ranked Choice Voting in its partisan primary elections.
  • Cities across the U.S. have enacted Ranked Choice Voting for their local elections, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN; Oakland and San Francisco, CA; Takoma Park, MD; Basalt and Telluride, CO; Memphis, TN; Santa Fe, NM; Sarasota, FL; Ferndale, MI; Amherst, MA; Cambridge, MA; and many more.
  • Major political parties use RCV in four states.

Around the World

Nearly 1.5 billion people live in countries that use Ranked Choice Voting. A number of governments around the world use RCV to elect members to national, state/province, and local offices.

  • Australia (House of Representatives, Senate, state legislatures, local governments)
  • Canada (political party elections, local governments)
  • India (Parliament, legislative councils)
  • Ireland (Parliament, European elections, local governments)
  • New Zealand (regional elections, local governments)
  • Malta (Parliament, European elections, local governments)
  • Northern Ireland (National Assembly, European elections, local governments)
  • United Kingdom (political party leaders, mayors)

Learn more about where RCV is used at FairVote.

  • RCV is a simple, fair, and easy way to enable more voices and provide more choices for Michigan voters.
  • RCV ensures the winning candidate has majority (More than 50%) support and that similar candidates can’t split the vote or “spoil” the election.
  • Instead of picking just one candidate, RCV allows you to rank any or even all the candidates on your ballot — ensuring EVERY VOTE MATTERS.