How ranked choice voting works

Broadly speaking, the ranked choice voting process (sometimes referred to as instant runoff voting) is applicable in races with three or more candidates. It unfolds as follows:

  1. Voters rank the candidates for a given office by preference on their ballots.
  2. If a candidate wins an outright majority of first-preference votes (i.e., 50 percent plus one), he or she will be declared the winner.
  3. If, on the other hand, no candidates win an outright majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated from the totals.
  4. With all first-preference votes for the failed candidate eliminated, their second-preference choices indicated on those failed candidate ballots are then added to the totals.
  5. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won an outright majority with these added votes.
  6. The process is repeated until a candidate wins a majority of votes cast.
  7. This eliminates the need for a second, runoff election.

An added benefit to this process is that negative, hostile campaigning can make that candidate less well liked, and therefore less likely to be someone’s second or third choice.

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