What is RCV?

RCV ballot illustration

Ranked choice voting (sometimes referred to as instant runoff voting) is a method of voting in which instead of voting for a single candidate, the voter ranks candidates on the ballot in order of preference – first, second, third, and so on. 

If a candidate gets more than half of all first-choice votes, they win just as in any other election.

If no candidate gets a majority, then a series of virtual runoffs commences (virtual because voting takes place just once, and “runoffs” occur in the tallying process). In each runoff round, the last-place finisher is eliminated from contention. All ballots on which that candidate was ranked first are now repurposed and given to the second-choice candidate. That process continues until a candidate wins with a majority of the votes.

This method gives voters more choice by eliminating the fear of throwing away your vote on someone who can't win. It also avoids the problem of similar candidates splitting the vote and enabling someone to win whom a majority does not support.

Ranked choice voting is nonpartisan; it sometimes helps Republicans, sometimes helps Democrats, and always helps improve our democracy.