What is ranked choice voting?

Mikhaila Markham
Published April 2019, FairVote


The concept of ranked choice voting (RCV) was first introduced to me in November of 2016. I was a first-semester senior at a small liberal arts college in mid-Michigan, and the largely-progressive student body was reeling after the election of a candidate the majority of voters did not support.

You know which one I’m talking about.

Many of my peers blamed the outcome on third-party candidates, whose supporters may have voted for Clinton had there been only two options.

But is that really what we want in a democracy? Fewer options?

My good friend and favorite political science guru offered a solution over dinner one night. Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and their supporters were not to blame; in fact, our electoral system was at fault.

Instead of choosing just one candidate, why not allow voters to rank all the contestants in order of preference? Ranked choice voting would not only eliminate the spoiler effect, but it would reduce strategic voting and jumpstart America’s transition away from the two-party system.

I’d always been casually interested in politics, but it had never occurred to me that there was another, better way to vote. And this is not uncommon.

Less than two years after my introduction to RCV, I now find myself living and working in Washington, D.C., the epicenter of American politics. During my time here, I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t want to talk politics. My fellow Washingtonians reference “The Hill” in casual conversation and follow every last congressperson on Twitter. And yet, many of them have either never heard of RCV or don’t quite understand how it works.

So if some of the most politically-attuned Americans don’t know the basics of ranked choice voting, what does that mean for our movement?

It means we have a lot of work ahead of us, and it starts with you!

First, take two minutes to watch this ranked choice voting video and master your own summarization of the process. Ranked choice voting isn’t difficult, but explaining any new concept takes practice. 

Second, you can post this video on your own social media profiles. RCV is a non-partisan solution that won’t cause a rift between you and your ideologically-opposite cousin, so you can hit that “share” button without fear of stirring the pot.

Happy advocating!


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