Can a candidate who finishes second in the first round ultimately win the election?


Yes, this is possible -- just like when a candidate who places second in a primary or in a special election goes on to win the runoff election. RCV simply combines two elections into one, which simulates a two-round election. Instead of voting in two different elections, voters only have to go to the polls once and rank their choices. Rounds of counting occur until one candidate (in a single-seat race) reaches a majority. The candidate with the most first choices usually wins, but it is possible for another candidate to emerge as the winner. If the candidate with the most first choices wins, it is still beneficial to have used RCV since more than half of the voters can then reasonably believe that their vote helped elect the winner. In addition, the winner's true majority based victory lends them credibility.