Guide To Ranked Choice Voting

Fair voting practices are crucial for desirable outcomes within organizations.

Having an organized way of collecting information about what members want to see for future leadership makes the decision-making process easier. One way to conduct a poll is to choose a ranked-choice voting approach.

Discover which candidates for a role or position voters prefer and in what order.

What Is a Ranked-Choice Voting System?

A ranked-choice voting system means giving people the ability to vote for more than one person on a ballot.

An individual can choose up to a certain number of candidates. The structure of a ranked-choice voting system requires voters to choose persons listed on a poll in the order in which they feel someone is suitable for the opportunity.

The Logistics of Ranked-Choice Voting

How does ranked-choice voting work? Ranked-choice voting steps away from the “choose one” mentality. Members of an organization or committee select candidates in the order of preference. Multiple rows and columns on a ballot encourage you to pick your first, second, and third choices for the open position.

Ranked-choice voting systems work well in situations where a handful of candidates are running for an opportunity and the “choose one” approach would leave you without runner-up data you’re interested in seeing.

Benefits of Ranked-Choice Voting

Ranked-choice voting offers several advantages over traditional plurality voting systems, including:

  • Process of elimination: A candidate wins a ranked-choice vote by surpassing a certain threshold. Let’s say you determine that the winner must reach 50% of the vote. If no one meets this criterion, you eliminate the person with the lowest vote count and redistribute ballots.
  • Candidate support: The process of elimination allows you to hold multiple voting rounds. Give organization members a say in who they would prefer as the winner next if their first-preference candidate is knocked out of the race.
  • Potential for better participation: Some voters may be hesitant to cast their vote if they feel their first-choice candidate has a low chance of winning. Ranked-choice voting systems eliminate the feeling that someone is wasting their only vote — increasing participation.

Comparing Ranked-Choice Voting and Plurality Voting

Both ranked-choice voting and plurality voting systems may be used to pinpoint winning parties in an election. While the voting systems are unique in structure, each depends on the participation of voters for success. It is impossible to have a clear winner in these types of elections unless voters participate in casting their vote for one or multiple candidates.

You can find ranked-choice voting and plurality voting structures used around the world. Decision-makers often look to these methods for voting, as both are capable of determining a winning candidate by keeping voter preferences at the core of elections. There is a majority rules mentality when organizing an election with ranked-choice and plurality formats.

Challenges of Ranked-Choice Voting Elections

If you are organizing a ranked-choice election, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Educating voters: It is possible that someone participating in a ranked-choice election is new to the process. You have to inform voters about how to complete the ballot form and what the next steps of the election will be.
  • Communicating winners: Since ranked-choice elections include multiple rounds, you need a reliable communication method to update voters. This includes spreading the word about dates of follow-up voting rounds and who is still in the race.
  • Candidate actions: Ranked-choice voting systems can be hard to anticipate from start to finish. For example, a candidate who performs well could drop out of the race voluntarily, or someone who receives the highest number of votes one round could lose in the next.


Choose Survey & Ballot Systems (SBS) for Voting Software and Services

At SBS, it’s our goal to connect organizations like unions and cooperatives with members via elections and surveys. Our team offers a long list of solutions to help you organize polls and gather feedback through real-time online voting, paper ballots, and hybrid elections.

To learn more about how we can help you hold a private election, contact our experts online today.