Ranked Choice Voting

What is Ranked Choice Voting?
Ranked choice voting (RCV) describes voting systems that allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and then uses those rankings to elect candidates able to combine strong first choice support with the ability to earn second and third choice support. RCV  is an “instant runoff” when electing one candidate and is a form of fair representation voting when used in multi-winner elections.

Ranked choice voting has a profound impact on governance and elections. It allows voters to have significant choices while rewarding candidates who reach out to more voters positively, rather than relying on hostile negative campaigning, as described in this video of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who won election in an RCV race in 2013.
Ranked Choice Voting

Where is Ranked Choice Voting used?

Governments using RCV as of November 2013

  • Arkansas (only overseas voters in runoffs): Adopted in 2005 and first used 2006
  • Alabama (only overseas voters): By agreement with a federal court, used in special election for U.S. House, 2013
  • Berkeley, California: Adopted in 2004 and first used 2010 (for mayor, city council and other city offices)
  • Hendersonville, North Carolina  Adopted and used as part of a pilot program in 2007, 2009 and 2011 (mayor and multi-seat variation for city council) and under consideration for future elections
  • Louisiana (only overseas and out-of-state military voters in federal and state runoffs): Adopted and used since the 1990s
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: Adopted in 2006 and first used in 2009 in elections for mayor, city council and several other city offices, including certain multi-seat elections
  • Oakland, California: Adopted in 2006 and first used in 2010 (for a total of 18 city offices, including mayor and city council)
  • Portland, Maine: Adopted in 2010 and first used in 2011 (for electing mayor only)
  • San Francisco, California: Adopted in 2002, first used in 2004 and used every November election since then (for mayor, city attorney,  Board of Supervisors and five additional citywide offices)
  • San Leandro, California: Adopted as option in 2000 charter amendment and first used in 2010 and every two years since  (for mayor and city council)
  • South Carolina (only for overseas voters in federal and state primary runoffs): Adopted and first used in 2006
  • St. Paul, Minnesota: Adopted in 2009, first used in 2011 and to be used every two years (mayor and city council)
  • Springfield, Illinois (for overseas voters only): Adopted in 2007 and first used in 2011
  • Takoma Park, Maryland: Adopted in 2006 and first used in 2007, with elections every two years and with some special elections in between (for mayor and city council)
  • Telluride, Colorado: Adopted in 2008 and first used in 2011 (for mayoral elections)

Upcoming implementations

  • Memphis, TN (adopted 2008; scheduled for 2015 for electing city council and other offices)
  • Santa Fe, NM (adopted 2008; scheduled for 2016 for electing mayor city council)

Advisory, Option or Contingent Measure in the United States

  • Ferndale, Michigan (adopted in 2004)
  • Santa Clara County, California (adopted in 1998)
  • Sarasota, Florida (adopted in 2007)
  • Vancouver, Washington (adopted in 1999)


  • The state pays for statewide primaries and presidential primary elections.
  • Roughly less than 20% of voters participate in primary elections
  • Runoffs in primaries cost taxpayers more money and roughly less than 10% of the electorate participates in primary runoffs


  • Amend the Texas constitution to allow ranked choice voting for all city, county and state elected officials where there are 2 or more candidates
  • Amend the Texas constitution to allow ranked choice voting only for governor when there are 2 or more candidates
  • Amend the Texas constitution to require the Secretary of State gather the total costs of administering primaries, primary runoffs and general election runoffs from the 20 most populous counties annually


Texas Constitution
Code – Election code
Chapter – 2 Vote Required for Election to Office
Section – 2.021 Runoff Election Required
Section – 2.023 Runoff Candidates
Section – 2.024 Ordering Runoff
Section – 2.025 Runoff Election Day
Section – 2.026 Notice of Runoff
Section – 2.027 Certification of Runoff Candidates

Code – Election Code
Chapter – 31 Officers to Administer Elections
Section – 31.08 Collection of Information; Forum on Election Cost Savings

Chapter – 173 Primary Election Financing
Section – 173.001 State Funds for Primary Authorized
Section – 173.003 Expenses Incurred by County
Section – 173.035 Audit by the Secretary of State
Section – 173.036 State Funds for Audit Requested by Party

Chapter – 191 Selection of Delegates to National Nominating Convention
Section – 191.006 Financing Presidential Primary


NCSL – Election Costs: What States Pay

Ballotpedia – Maine Ranked Choice Voting Initiative (2016)

Approval Voting Versus IRV

Approval Voting vs. Instant Runoff Voting

Wall Street Journal – A Split Vote on Alternative Electoral Systems

Wall Street Journal – Explaining Ranked Choice to San Francisco’s Voters

Instant Runoff Voting: A Cure That is Likely Worse Than the Disease

Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department – Instant-Runoff Voting

Truth Out – Conservatives Benefit From Instant Runoff Voting, Too

CVD Submits Brief on Instant Runoff Voting to Texas Attorney General

Montgomery County State Delegation Will Consider RCV Option for Special Elections

Maine: Ranked-choice voting question certified for November 2016 ballot

New Legislation in 13 States to Expand Use of Ranked Choice Voting in 2016

Time – Donald Trump’s Nomination Showed a Problem With How America Votes. Maine Thinks It Has the Solution

El Paso Times – Low turnout fuels debate on killing runoffs

Bangor Daily News – As a Republican, this is why I support ranked-choice voting

Portland Herald Press – Maine Voices: Ranked-choice voting passes every test of true democracy

Herald Review – The case for Ranked Choice Voting

Greenville Online – Letter: Let voters rank candidates to avoid run-offs

Ranked Choice Voting Qualifies for Benton County Ballot

Oklahoma Policy Institute – Oklahoma and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Runoffs

The Intercept – Maine’s “Instant Runoff” Proposal Could Banish Its Governor From State Politics

Reno Gazette Journal – Fewer than 15% of voters could elect WCSD District C trustee

Independent Voter – The Story Behind Why You Have to Pay for Party Primaries

Independent Voter – Taxpayers Spent Half a BILLION Dollars on Party Primaries in 2016

Independent Voter – Texas Taxpayers Paying for Private Elections with Public Dollars

Chicago Tribune – Make the political parties pay for their primaries

Texas Monthly – Why mail-in ballots are so high in Harris County early voting

Houston Chronicle – Harris County mulls easier voting

Your Houston News – Voting precinct change designed to reduce costs

San Antonio Express News – Growing Bexar electorate brings bigger election cost

Victoria Advocate – City pays $25 a vote in special election

Pew – Texas Dispatch: Estimating Total Election Costs

Pew – Louisiana Dispatch: The Cost of Special Elections

Pew – Election Costs in New York

Pew – Wisconsin Election Costs

Pew – The Cost of Ranked-Choice Voting in St. Paul, Minnesota

Alabama – Runoff election Tuesday will cost Alabama $3 million

Alabama – One runoff, two candidates, $500,000 tab

Fair Vote – North Carolina’s Elimination of Primary Runoffs Shows Why Ranked Choice Voting is a Better Way

Fair Vote – States using runoffs for statewide or federal office

Tampa Bay Times – Senate writes obituary for runoff elections

Oakland Magazine – Opinion: Why Ranked Choice Voting Matters in Oakland

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