Eight Ways Ranked Choice Voting Can Improve Voting and Elections

Graphic showing three check boxes numbered by a ballot box

Voting for more than one candidate on the ballot in a single race may seem a little odd to most, but to those familiar with ranked choice voting (RCV), it has provided a way to improve voting and elections. CLC’s issue brief, The Civic Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting, outlines eight ways RCV can help improve voting and elections in the nation.

So how does it work? Instead of voting for one candidate in each race, RCV ask voters to rank candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the majority of the votes wins. What if no one get the majority of the votes? That’s ok. This is where the rankings come in to play. Votes from the candidates in last place are redistributed to the next choice candidate until one of the candidates gets a majority of the votes. No run-off elections with another costly campaign or an additional voting day. It saves money and time.

Learn more about the other benefits of RCV below and in the issue brief, The Civic Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting or by watching our video on RCV.

1. Ranked choice voting encourages greater civility and less negative campaigning among candidates, as well as more direct outreach by candidates to voters.

A traditional plurality voting system incentivizes candidates to engage in negative campaign tactics. Ranked choice voting removes incentives for negative campaigning and increases civility among candidates, because it fosters more choice, more competition, and a greater need for cooperation.


2. Ranked choice voting is more majoritarian and more democratic than traditional plurality voting.

Traditional plurality voting—in which each voter may vote for only one candidate and the candidate who receives the most votes wins—is marked by a pervasive lack of competitiveness. Lack of competitiveness, coupled with low voter participation, ensures that many election results do not reflect the will of the majority of citizens.


3. Ranked choice voting encourages a greater number of candidates with more diverse backgrounds and views to run for office.

Traditional plurality voting, which usually results in a contest between two candidates from the major political parties, suppresses independent and minor party candidacies. Ranked choice voting eliminates the problem of candidacy suppression and, instead, encourages more people to run for office.


4. Because ranked choice voting encourages more diverse candidates to run for office, it may, in turn, reduce political polarization.

Political polarization is high in traditional plurality elections. Turnout is low and candidates may win simply by mobilizing and championing the views of a core group of committed supporters, who are often more ideologically extreme than the broader electorate. Ranked choice voting may reduce political polarization because it encourages more diverse candidates and greater competition in local and state elections.


5. Ranked choice voting may decrease the influence of big money in politics.

While research on this subject is only preliminary, ranked choice voting may decrease the influence of big money in political campaigns.


6. Ranked choice voting saves jurisdictions money because it eliminates the need for multiple rounds of voting.

Multiple rounds of voting for a single office, including primary elections, general elections, and runoff elections, can be costly and time intensive for cities and states to administer. Ranked choice voting alleviates the burden of multiple rounds of voting by compressing them into a single election, through a process that is sometimes called ‘instant runoff voting’.


7. By eliminating multiple rounds of voting, ranked choice voting avoids the decline in voter participation that occurs in most primary and runoff elections.

Many political scientists have attributed low voter turnout to the large number of elections held in the United States. Ranked choice voting eliminates the need for multiple rounds of voting and, therefore, avoids the decline in participation that occurs in most primary and runoff elections.


8. Voters demonstrate high levels of understanding and satisfaction with ranked choice voting in jurisdictions that have adopted it.

Research to date overwhelmingly shows that voters in jurisdictions that use ranked choice voting understand and are satisfied with the voting system.

Read the issue brief.