FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Ranked Choice Voting?
Ranked Choice Voting is a simple but powerful way to vote that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference and ensures winners with a majority or the highest support possible in a single, decisive and cost-effective election. In ranked choice elections, voters rank as many or as few candidates as they like from their favorite to least favorite: first choice, second choice, and so on.
Why is it important to rank your vote?
How does Ranked Choice Voting work?
What are the benefits of Ranked Choice Voting?
Do voters have to rank all the candidates?
No. You can rank as many or as few candidates as you like, up to the limit of choices permitted by the final rules of the election. In most local RCV elections, voters can choose up to three choices. The value of ranking is to allow a voter to continue to express their preferences between candidates even if their first choice is eliminated in the instant runoff process. The more a voter ranks, the more power their ballot has in deciding the outcome of the election.
How long does it take to tabulate the results of a ranked choice election?
First-round election results are available on election night and all candidates who meet the threshold to win will be declared. For all other races, the results will be decided the following day=St. Paul continues to manually tabulate ballots which is typically completed a few days following the election. ]
Does Ranked Choice Voting allow voters to vote more than once?
No. Voters have the power to rank candidates, but their vote only counts for one candidate in the final round of counting.
As the Minnesota Supreme Court made clear: Every voter gets an equal vote. In each round of counting, your ballot counts as one vote for your highest-ranked candidate still in the running. If your favorite candidate has been eliminated – just as in a traditional primary election – your choice is limited to one of the remaining candidates, and under RCV, your vote automatically counts for your next choice on the ballot.
Does Ranked Choice Voting allow some voters to vote more times than other voters?
No. An RCV election may require several instant runoff rounds of counting to determine which candidate has majority support. During that process, a voter’s ballot counts as one vote for their highest-ranked candidate still in the running. All voters’ ballots count equally at every round of voting.
If I rank a second and third choice, could it hurt my favorite candidate’s chances of winning?
No. Your vote counts for your second choice only if your first choice is eliminated. Your vote counts for your third choice only if your first and second choices are eliminated.
What if I unknowingly make a mistake on my ballot? Will my vote be counted?
Whether using a ranked choice ballot or a traditional ballot, mistakes are handled the same way: If you make a mistake on your RCV ballot that would disqualify your ballot (i.e., voting for more than one candidate in the same column), the tabulator would reject your ballot, and you would have an opportunity to correct it.
Is Ranked Choice Voting constitutional?
Yes. In 2009, the Minnesota State Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Ranked Choice Voting is constitutional: “Every voter has the same opportunity to rank candidates when she casts her ballot, and in each round every voter’s vote carries the same value.” Minnesota Voters Alliance v. FairVote Minnesota, June 11, 2009. Federal courts have also ruled that RCV meets all tests under the U.S. Constitution.
What has been the experience of Minnesota cities that use Ranked Choice Voting?
More than 545,000 Ranked Choice Voting ballots have been cast in Minnesota since 2009 when Minneapolis began using RCV. It has been used in St. Paul since 2011 and in St. Louis Park since 2019. By all measures, RCV has been a resounding success in all three cities:
- Voter participation has increased;
- More candidates are running and offering voters greater diversity of background and perspective;
- Voters overwhelmingly say that RCV is easy to use and that they like it better than the old system.
Voters in Bloomington and Minnetonka adopted RCV by ballot measure in 2020 and will begin using it for mayoral and council elections in 2021, along with Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Louis Park. For details and statistics on RCV elections in Minnesota cities, see the Ranked Choice Voting in Minnesota Fact Sheet (download .pdf).
Where is Ranked Choice Voting used?
In Minnesota, RCV will be used in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, and Bloomington in November, 2021.
Beyond just Minnesota, 20 million Americans live in cities and states where RCV is used. RCV has been adopted for state and federal elections in Alaska, and Maine uses RCV in statewide primary and federal elections, including for president. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Springfield, IL use RCV for military and overseas voters.
More than two dozen cities in 17 states use Ranked Choice Voting for local elections. They range from large cities like New York and San Francisco to small cities like Vineyard, Utah and Eastpointe, Michigan.
RCV is used in democracies around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and in the city of London, England. Elected officials in India, Nepal and Pakistan use the multi-winner form of RCV to select their national senates and in India, its president.
How did Ranked Choice Voting get started in Minnesota?
In 2004, the League of Women Voters Minnesota conducted an exhaustive, two-year study of voting systems and reached a consensus that endorsed Ranked Choice Voting as an option for local and state elections in Minnesota. See the summary position on LWV-MN website.
In 2006, FairVote Minnesota, with the support of the League of Women Voters Minneapolis, former Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser and dozens of volunteers, led a grassroots campaign to adopt RCV in Minneapolis that voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin.
Rank Your Vote is a project of FairVote Minnesota, a nonprofit, nonpartisan election reform organization that engages hundreds of volunteers and thousands of supporters. Together, we work for a stronger democracy through public education and advocacy for Ranked Choice Voting, a system proven to be more inclusive, democratic, and representative than our current plurality electoral system. We educate and support candidates, elected officials, cities and voters in preparation for RCV elections.