What's the big deal? Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting, promotes healthier competition, fair elections, and more positive campaigns while also saving money by eliminating the need for runoff elections.
Ranked Choice Voting opens the way for more candidates to run in general elections, increasing competition
Democracy is strongest when more voices are heard. Ranked Choice Voting improves voter turnout by restoring faith that our votes matter
By eliminating the need for separate runoff elections, Ranked Choice Voting saves time, money, and energy
Candidates are more likely to run civil campaigns when second and third choice votes are at stake
Who uses it today? We're not the only ones who think Instant Runoff Voting / Ranked Choice Voting is the way to go.
Countries around the world, the State of Maine, New York City, and multiple other U.S. cities in Utah, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts, Colorado, and California all use Ranked Choice Voting.
In Texas, multiple universities and organizations use Ranked Choice Voting today.
160,000+ students and university faculty members across Texas each year use it to select student government and faculty council representatives
Texas State Democratic Party now allows districts to choose to use instant runoff voting for the selection of party officers and delegates
What is it? How exactly does it work?
We created a guide to explain the mechanics of instant runoff voting (a.k.a. ranked choice voting) as well as collected useful videos. Here is one of our favorites.
Download and share a brief description of what RCV is, its benefits, and how you can help bring RCV to Texas
Texas Universities Using Ranked Choice Voting
Each year over 160,000 students and university faculty members across Texas use RCV to select student government and faculty council representatives at several high-profile Texas universities.
Texas A&M University
In 2013 The Student Government Association (SGA) at Texas A&M University made the decision to institute RCV. Since that time, the Texas A&M SGA has used RCV to fill open positions in all of its single-seat elections, such as the SGA President. As the largest university in Texas with over 64,000 students and counting, Texas A&M is primed to continue to be a leader in introducing RCV to future generations of students and Texans.
- See Article IX Section VI and Article X of SGA Election Regulations
- See Section VIII.f of Senate Bill S.B. 67-43
- 2019 Election Results
- 2018 Election Results
- 2017 Election Results
University of Texas at Austin
In an effort to eliminate runoffs, reduce drama and negativity, and improve the accuracy of their elections, UT-Austin’s Student Government approved the switch to ranked choice voting in 2018. RCV was used for the first time in 2019. As currently approved, RCV at UT-Austin is used by the campus’ 50,000+ student body to decide both single and multi-seat elections for Student Government. In addition to Student Government elections, UT-Austin’s General Faculty Council also uses a form of RCV to select council members. With the adoption of RCV across multiple campus institutions, UT-Austin offers an opportunity to introduce thousands to the benefits of RCV.
- See Chapter X of the Campus-Wide Election Code 2018
- See Article VI Section 6.9 and Section 6.10 of Student Government Constitution
- See Amending Bill A.B.19 to Constitution and Election Code
- General Faculty Election Rules
University of Houston
Founded in 1927, the University of Houston has grown into the third largest university in Texas with over 45,000 students. Similar to other large Texas universities, the Student Government at the University of Houston recently approved ranked choice voting to be used in single and multi-seat races. RCV was recently used to select the 2019 Student Government Association President and Vice President.
Located in Houston, Rice University uses RCV for a majority of its Student Association (SA) single-seat elections. The offices elected through RCV include the SA president, vice-presidents, treasurer, and secretary. Rice also uses RCV to elect each of the 11 student college presidents, making sure that each student and college is represented. With plenty of opportunities to get involved and a student body of over 6,000 students, Rice sees a large number of students seeking office.
- See Section 6.10.c and Section 6.11.b of SA Constitution Bylaws
- 2019 Election Results
- 2018 Election Results
- 2017 Election Results
Texas Political Organizations Using Ranked Choice Voting
Texas State Democratic Party
In their 2019-2020 party rulebook, the Texas State Democratic Party allows for county or senate districts to choose to use instant runoff voting in their conventions for the selection of party officers and delegates. As currently approved, districts that choose to use instant runoff voting are to notify the State Chair. Written ballots are then provided by the State Party that provide instructions on the voting process and the ability to rank the first three candidates.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), a.k.a. Instant Runoff Voting, brings the election process back to the vibrant dynamic system our Founding Fathers intended. How? Here are all of the ways RCV improves our election process and why Texas should adopt it!
Across industries we expect and enforce healthy competition because competition encourages innovation, customer-focus, and lower prices. Yet in our public politics we endure a duopoly. Our two major political parties consolidate their power in order to overcome the other. To do this, they actively discourage third-party candidates for fear of “vote splitting”. For example, in a traditional election a 3rd party candidate can throw off results. A 3rd party candidate splits votes with the similar major-party candidate and leads to the other major-party candidate winning, as we saw in the 2000 Presidential Election. As a result, voters are pressured to choose one of the major-party candidates instead of voicing their true preference.
RCV allows multiple candidates to compete without fear of splitting the vote. Voters can rank candidates from first choice (even if unlikely to win) to second choice and so on, without fear of spoiling the election. More candidates competing in the general election brings more innovative ideas into public debate and focuses candidates on appealing to voters versus party influencers.
Democracy is strongest when more voices are heard. Ranked Choice Voting improves voter turnout by restoring faith that our votes matter.
Texas places 42nd among the States in terms of voter turnout since half of Texas’ eligible voters stay home, according to the United States Elections Project at the University of Florida. The reasons typically given are either disliking the candidates on the ballot or believing that voting is ineffective. In fact, a Suffolk University study found that “a majority of those non-voters would like to see a third party or multiple parties”, providing more choice and competition.
The competition we do have is sequestered within the party primary process. Today, a vote in a primary often has more impact than a vote in the general election. This pushes candidates to ideological extremes, promotes polarization and gridlock, and reduces the responsiveness of legislators to the general electorate.
In comparison, U.S. cities using ranked choice voting see a dramatic improvement in voter turnout. In Minneapolis, about 43 percent of registered voters voted in 2017, up from 33 percent in 2013, a very strong showing for a local, off-year election, according to FairVote.org. More voters cast ballots in the mayoral race than in any prior mayoral race in Minneapolis for at least the last 20 years.
Opponents of ranked choice voting sometimes attempt to make ranking candidates seem like a daunting task. It is not -- it is empowering and literally as easy as 1-2-3 to cast a smart, effective ballot. Ranking choices is a natural way of understanding our preferences, in and out of politics, and Americans rank things in order all the time.
Wouldn't you rather go to the polls once per election and avoid runoff elections?
Many local offices are elected in two rounds of elections: a general election followed by a runoff if no candidate has a majority. The first round raises issues of vote splitting, and the second round incurs additional cost while often suffering from very weak and unrepresentative turnout and raising the possibility of disenfranchising overseas and military voters. Ranked choice voting can accomplish the benefits of a runoff election structure with only one election, avoiding these issues while saving the jurisdiction the costs of running two elections.
That's why ranked choice voting is often called "instant runoff voting".
More Issue-Focused, Less Negative Campaigning
In traditional elections, candidates benefit from “mud-slinging” by attacking an opponent’s character instead of sharing their positive vision with voters. With ranked choice voting, candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents. Why? Because a candidate would like to be a voter’s second or third choice if not their first choice, giving candidates a reason to be more civil and issue-focused. A comprehensive Rutgers University poll of voters in 7 cities with ranked choice voting found that voters report friendlier campaigns and that RCV had majority support in all of the cities using it.
Military and Overseas Voters Have Equal Voice as Locals
Military and Overseas voters mail in their ballots in all elections. If a general election is followed by a runoff election, military voters must mail in a new ballot for that runoff election. With RCV, military voters only mail in one ballot with their ranked choices.
Removes the “Spoiler Effect” of Lesser Known Candidates
Voters should be able to vote for the candidate they support. Yet in elections without ranked choice voting, voters may feel that they need to vote for the “lesser of two evils” because their favorite candidate is unlikely to win. This “spoiler effect” discourages voting for lesser known or 3rd party candidates.
In fact there are various strategies used in our two round election system that would be eliminated by RCV, as Professors Bouton and Gratton detail in their 2015 paper. In one, supporters of the front-runner vote for a less preferred candidate so as to influence who will face the front-runner in the runoff election. For additional information, see ‘Tactical voting and strategic nomination’ article in Wikipedia.
With ranked choice voting, you can honestly rank candidates in order of choice without having to worry about how others will vote and who is more or less likely to win.
Mitigates Impact of Money in Politics
Too often, candidates win by barraging opponents with expensive, negative ads, rather than building a positive, grassroots campaign for support. Candidates who have run and won in ranked choice voting elections have been successful because they built grassroots outreach networks. Those more positive and inclusive campaign tactics cost less than polarizing negative radio and television elections, helping to explain why candidates seem able to win ranked choice voting elections even when outspent.
Promotes Reflective Representation
Compared to winner-take-all elections, ranked choice voting in multi-winner contests allows more diverse groups of voters to elect candidates of their choice. This promotes diversity of political viewpoint as well as diversity of candidate background and demographics. Even in single-winner races, ranked choice voting can promote the representation of historically under-represented groups like racial and ethnic minorities and women. A report co-authored by FairVote and the New America Foundation found that racial minority populations prefer ranked choice voting and find it easy to use, and that ranked choice voting increased turnout by 2.7 times in San Francisco.