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Ranked Choice Voting 101


The recent special congressional election in Alaska has drawn national attention to an election method called Ranked Choice Voting, or RCV. Alaska voters approved an initiative to establish a Ranked Choice Voting general election system during the 2020 general election, and this was the first time it was used.

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters the option to rank candidates in a race in order of their preference, rather than simply selecting one candidate in the kind of system most of us are familiar with which is known as plurality voting. If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices in the first round, that candidate wins outright, just like in any other election. But, if there is no majority winner after counting the first choices, the race is decided by an instant runoff.

Currently, 56 cities, counties, and states have Ranked Choice Voting in place, reaching approximately 11 million voters. This includes 2 states, 1 county, and 53 cities. Military and overseas voters cast RCV ballots in federal runoff elections in 6 states. Forty three jurisdictions used RCV in their most recent elections. Click here to see a PDF of where RCV is used, and here to see a map of where it's used in the U.S.

Ranked Choice Voting advocates say it can help us move away from our partisan divide and encourage more civil election campaigns, and save money by eliminating the need for runoff elections. Critics call the system convoluted and claim it disenfranchises voters.

Turner-White Photography

In order to get some history and context we spoke with Chris Hughes, he is Director of Policy Director and Counsel for the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center. It’s a division of the Election Administration Resource Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides information, research, and tools to teach the public about ranked-choice voting.

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