Ranked-Choice Voting, Explained

In pursuance of my call for an American Labor Party, I am going to lay out my vision for a Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) System.

Ranked Choice

For Liberals: RCV allows for minor party votes to be funneled to palatable, but not energizing, major-party candidates. You won't ever have to say the name "Jill Stein" again.

For Conservatives: It's like having a runoff election handled on one ballot so you don't need to call everyone back to a polling location later. It's faster and more efficient, so government doesn't need to take up more of your time.

Sample Scenario

On your ballot, you might see this:

Round 1  |  Round 2  |  Round 3  |  Candidates                                                                              .
      [  ]       |       [  ]        |        [  ]        | Lisa Savage (I)
      [  ]       |       [  ]        |        [  ]        | Max Lin (I)
      [  ]       |       [  ]        |        [  ]        | Sara Gideon (D)
      [  ]       |       [  ]        |        [  ]        | Susan Collins (R)

The reason you might see this is because you might be voting for Senate in Maine, which already uses an RCV balloting system. Because RCV is already used in Maine, I'll use that for the example here.

Let's say a voter is a young Social Syndicalist, perhaps even named Matt, possibly with a blog (it's obviously not me, I live in Iowa... send help), with a set of voting priorities shared with others in his generation. Having an eye on the future, he is concerned with climate change. Having an eye on the past, he is skeptical of people in power and how they've behaved. As a syndicalist, he's very protective of Unions and worker rights.

Being concerned with climate change, he supports the Green Party and its candidate Lisa Savage (who's listed as an Independent for systemic reasons [note: I hope this is the right link; I didn't feel like rewatching a 30 min video/I'm just going off memory]).

Being skeptical of people in power, he supports a "safe option" to oust the person currently in power, so he's also supportive of Sara Gideon.

Being protective of Unions, he couldn't vote for anyone protective of corporate power over workers, so no market fundamentalist right-wingers.

Matt is torn between Gideon and Savage. On a ballot you might be able to find elsewhere, you can only vote for someone, not vote to remove someone from office, which will require you to cast an affirmative vote in favor of someone. Matt agrees with Savage's positions but disagrees highly with the incumbent so much that he is willing to compromise his values to vote for whomever the opposition may be.

How It Works

Votes are tallied in a series of rounds. If a candidate gets a majority of the votes in the first round, then Congratulations! You've won! If nobody gets the necessary 50% + 1 votes, the we move to Round 2.

In Round 2, the person with the least number of votes is stricken from the list of candidates and the ballots originally cast for them are redistributed to whoever the second choice of those ballots. If a voter doesn't have any other choices, the vote tally stands where it was and their ballot doesn't move. If someone gets the 50% + 1 minimum to win, then Congratulations! You've won! Otherwise, move to Round 3.

Round 3 is a repeat of Round 2, but with the new person with the lowest list not making it to this round of the runoff.

These "runoff rounds" keep going until someone has a majority of the votes left to win. But Matt (the writer, not the hypothetical voter), I hear you asking, what if I voted for the person who wins? Or loses to the winner in the final round? Is my vote redistributed like land in a Communist revolution?.

Dear Glorious Leader Reader, no. Your votes are carried over to the same candidate as they were counted for in the previous round. The only ones that get reallocated in the next round are the ones cast for the candidate in last place.

Sample Scenario, Continued

Knowing this, Matt may fill out the ballot like this:

Round 1  |  Round 2  |  Round 3  |  Candidates                                                                              .
      [X]      |       [  ]        |        [  ]        | Lisa Savage (I)
      [  ]       |       [  ]        |        [  ]        | Max Lin (I)
      [  ]       |       [X]       |        [  ]        | Sara Gideon (D)
      [  ]       |       [  ]        |        [  ]        | Susan Collins (R)

With a ballot filled out and cast, we could see Round 1 results like this:

Susan Collins: 35%

Lisa Savage:    30%

Sara Gideon:    25%

Max Lin:            10%

Nobody has hit 50% + 1 votes, so we'll have to move to a runoff. Since Max is at the lowest in Round 1 of this hypothetical scenario, he would be cut from the lineup in Round 2. Because this is a hypothetical scenario, we'll say his supporters split 5% for Susan Collins, 3% for Lisa Savage, and 2% for Sara Gideon. Our results for Round 2 would look like this:

Susan Collins: 40% (+5)

Lisa Savage:    33% (+3)

Sara Gideon:    27% (+2)

Now that we have Round 2 tabulated, we can see that not a single candidate has hit a majority of votes remaining. This means we'll have to go to Round 3.

Lisa Savage:    55% (+22)

Susan Collins: 45% (+5)

Here, in Round 3, we see Lisa Savage win. Had the vote been the standard single-choice style, Susan Collins would have been reelected, despite the fact that a majority of people (65% of first-choices and 55% of the final tally) voted for someone else.


This gives voters the most palatable choice and ensures that votes that would otherwise be called "spoilers" still were counted and mattered. Widely unpopular candidates can be kicked out of office and replaced with more widely liked challengers.

Without the blame continuously hitting "spoiler" candidates, we can have a more ideologically diverse slate of candidates running, bringing more people to the ballotbox. When we have more people coming to vote, we have a more inclusive system of governance. When more citizens have their voices heard, our society becomes more just and equitable.

The more just and equitable our society is, the fewer extreme backlashes we'll see.

That'd be nice.