Ranked Choice Voting / Preferential Voting

people looing at white board with flow chart

ezVote now offers Ranked-Choice voting methods, making it easy for you to determine the majority winner among your candidates in competitive elections.

What is Ranked Choice Voting?

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), also known as Preferential Voting, is a way to allow your voters to 'Rank' the candidates on their ballot with their favorite candidate at the top, and selecting as many or as little candidates as they choose.

The main benefit of RCV is that it eliminates spoilers in an election; assuming you have multiple candidates from a single party, RCV will allow voters from that party to select ALL the candidates from that party in their preferred order. This prevents multiple candidates from ‘splitting’ a party. The winner of that party (with the full support of their voters) will then be able to compete evenly with the winner from another party.

With Ranked-Choice Voting there are many alternative voting methods used for calculating the winning candidates of a real election, including:

  • Plurality (First Past the Post)
  • Run-Off
  • Instant Run-Off
  • Condorcet
  • Borda Count
  • Single Transferable Voting (STV)
  • Single Transferable Voting (STV) w/ Borda elimination
  • Meek Style STV
  • Meek Style STV w/ Borda elimination

... just to name a few.

Which Ranked-Choice Voting Method Is Best?

There is no 'one perfect method'. No ranked choice voting method is better at selecting a winning candidate over another - it's just a matter of how well the method suits the organization.

There are some methods that will, in fact, give you different results simply based on the order in which the ballots are counted. We have chosen NOT to offer those methods.

For each one of the methods we provide, we offer a full explanation of how each of the methods will tally the ballots and include the computations for your peace of mind.

What is the benefit of Ranked-Choice Voting?

In Ranked choice elections each voter selects their favorite candidate(s). The ranked choice voting system eliminates the fear of a voter's selection being wasted!

Now let's take a brief look at each of the methods offered...

Plurality Voting

Plurality (aka: First Past the Post) is not really intended to be a Ranked Choice Voting tally method.

This method simply counts all the number of first-choice votes (consider the case where the voter could only choose or rank a single candidate). Simply add up the number of first preference votes for each preferred candidate that was ranked #1. The preferred candidate(s) with the majority of votes wins.

Run-Off Method

The Run-Off method typically selects a single winner from a list of candidates.

Like the Plurality method, the Run-Off method determines the top first and second choice candidates. If the 1st choice candidate receives the outright majority vote, they are declared the winner.

Otherwise, the top two candidates are put on a second ballot, and voters are required to vote again.

Thinking back to the old days of paper ballots, this concept was easy to understand, and made it easy to count ballots. But, while it was easier and it removed any spoiler candidates, it also created twice as much work for everybody!

Instant Run-Off Method

Similar to the runoff voting elections, if there is no majority winner of the first preference votes, then another Run-Off round is executed. But this time the 1st-round ballots are re-counted considering only the two qualifying candidates (candidates with the fewest votes are ignored).

Instant-runoff voting prevents the voters from having to re-cast another ballot, and the run-off or subsequent rounds are instantaneously generated from the voters' original ranked-choice ballots! (Again, removing spoiler candidates from the election outcome.)

The instant-runoff voting method is used in France, and the Finnish presidential elections. It is also used by various private associations and political parties across the globe.

Condorcet [kon-DOHR-say] Winner

With the Condorcet method, the candidates are evaluated on their head-to-head competition with all the other candidates.

The candidate that beats all the other candidates in a head-to-head match is the winner. (This method is sometimes used as the 'acid test' for all the other methods, to see if the 'real' winners gain the outright majority)

The head-to-head comparison is done on a candidate-vs-candidate basis. Each candidate is ranked (above or below) every other candidate on every ballot. That candidate-vs-candidate score (for each pair of competing candidates) is sorted, and the candidates beating all the other candidates are the winners.

The Condorcet method does, however, come with a drawback. Suppose Candidate-A beats Candidate-B, and Candidate-B beats Candidate-C. It would stand to reason that Candidate-A should also beat Candidate-C, but that's not always the case. If Candidate-C beats Candidate-A, then we have a 'Condorcet Paradox' (A beats B beats C beats A).

Borda Count Method

The Borda Count Method is intended to elect broadly acceptable candidates, rather than those preferred by a majority, and so is often described as a Consensus-Based voting system rather than a majoritarian one. It tends to favor candidates supported by a broad consensus among voters, rather than a strong candidate who is necessarily the favorite of a majority.

Votes are not transferred (as with STV), but instead are ranked (per ballot) and the candidates are scored relatively.

Scoring is generally done by giving a certain number of points to each 1st choice candidate, one less point for the second-choice candidate, and so on. The points are accumulated, and the highest scored candidates are declared as the winners. (In some versions of Borda, they assign 1 point to the 1st-ranked candidate, 2 points for 2nd, etc., and the candidate with the least points wins.)

ezVote uses a slightly different version of this method wherein we assign 1 point to the last-place candidate, 2 points to the next-to-last, and so on.

Candidates not ranked by the voter receive zero points. This makes the math easy to comprehend, especially when voter weighting is thrown into the mix. This also prevents the voters from 'gaming' the election by trying to cast a vote for only a single candidate.

Single Transferable Voting (STV)

The Single Transferable Voting (STV) method is intended to elect candidates for Proportional Representation (PR), ensuring that *all* segments of the voting population are represented (proportionally), instead of the majority sweeping the election.

Furthermore, STV ensures that a 'less popular' candidate won't skew the outcome of an election by *splitting the vote*.

For example, if Andy & Bob are both running for Party-A (Bob being the less popular candidate), and Charlie is running for Party-B, any votes cast for Bob (assuming he doesn't get enough votes to win) will be transferred up to Andy. Now Andy and Charlie can run against each other, each with 100% of their party's votes.

Single Transferable Vote vs Borda Count

STV (vs. Borda) Counting more accurately selects winners based on the consensus of the voters as a group. While the math and the formulas for STV are more difficult to understand, the take-away is that STV selects proportionally representative winners rather than majority winner.

Note that our system calculates the Quorum (Q), based on the DROOP formula, with a slight modification which yields a fraction rather than an integer. The original DROOP formula (that defines Q as an integer) made it easier to count in the days before computers. Nowadays, our computer calculations are done with 11 digits of precision, yielding Q as a fraction which eliminates round-off errors.

Meek Style STV

Like STV, Meek Style does not throw away used votes for seated candidates, but instead candidates continue to receive votes and transfer surplus votes throughout the counting - no ballot is wasted.

Meek STV is fairer as votes are never discarded (as with basic STV) - every vote counts! The math on this gets incredibly complex, but the computers can do the calculations in a fraction of a second.

To expand upon all the above methods, and choose the best parts of each method, we can combine the Transferable Vote method with the Borda Count method to create a hybrid method.

When calculating winners with the STV methods, it's sometimes necessary to eliminate candidates with the lowest vote count. In basic STV & Meek, those eliminations are done by the current round of scoring.

But using "Borda Elimination", we take an initial snapshot of candidate scoring (Borda Counts) and choose the lowest scoring candidate to eliminate when necessary. While still even more computations are necessary, this improves the process by eliminating the obvious losers first.

Note that ezVote uses the "MEEK STV w/ BORDA ELIMINATION" as its default Ranked Choice Voting method.

Overall Results Comparison

Still not sure which method to use?

ezVote offers a Comparison chart with the election outcome calculated by each of the methods explained above.

Once your election is over, simply click that 'Show Results' button. For each Ranked Choice Voting type question on your ballot, you can see the different methods, how they're calculated, and how each stacks up against the others.

No other voting service offers this type of comprehensive and easy-to-use Ranked Choice Voting system! Contact ezVoteOnline today!