What is Ranked Choice Voting?

The Problem

Our political system today is tearing us apart and preventing us from working together to find solutions to major challenges. The way we vote allows us only all-or-nothing choices which is very out of step with how our modern world functions. This type of voting is called "First Past The Post" and it allows politicians to win with less than a majority of support and shuts out independent voices. And it limits our choices by forcing voters to choose what sometimes feels like the “lesser of two evils.”

Here is an informational video that explains why our current voting method leads to the very problems we are having.

The Solution: Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting is a simple, fair, and easy way to help fix these problems by giving you more voice and empowering you to vote your values without feeling like you're wasting your vote.

With Ranked Choice Voting, you can choose one candidate or rank the candidates in the order you prefer them. If no candidate wins a majority and your favorite is in last place, your vote automatically counts for your second choice, and so forth. It's just like a runoff, but instead of having to return to the polls, your vote transfers instantly since you already ranked your preferences.

This simple change will ensure that the winner has support from a majority of voters while leveling the field so that a greater diversity of parties and candidates can compete. Ranked Choice Voting will put voters first and restore faith that their votes matter at this critical time by providing the freedom to vote for your true favorite without helping the candidate you like least. Election integrity is stronger when more voters have confidence their votes will count.

Sign our petition to bring Ranked Choice Voting to Rhode Island!

 

Key Benefits of Ranked Choice Voting in Rhode Island

+ Ensures Majority Support

by requiring a candidate to win more than 50% by appealing to a broad base of voters. In our current “plurality-wins” system, candidates can win despite being the last choice of most voters; if more than two candidates run, winner only needs a minority of votes like 34% even if 66% vote for other candidates. Ranked Choice Voting guarantees the election of majority winners, whose support extends beyond a narrow base, by requiring the winner to have more than 50% of the vote. This is done in a series of “instant runoffs” until one candidate reaches a majority. For more detail, see How Does RCV Work?

+ Expands Voter Choice

by allowing you to vote for the candidate you really want, without settling for the “lesser of two evils.” In our current system, if your favorite candidate is unlikely to win, you have two bad choices: (1) cast a “safe” vote for one of the front-runners, to avoid electing the one you like least, or (2) cast a principled but risky vote for your favorite candidate. You shouldn’t be forced to take sides in this lose-lose dilemma. Ranked Choice Voting lets you vote for candidates you truly support, not just against the ones you oppose. Vote your hopes, not your fears!

+ Promotes a Greater Diversity of Candidates

by encouraging more candidates to run without fear of vote-splitting. In our current system, many candidates are pressured to drop out, shamed as “spoilers,” and excluded from public debates. Ranked Choice Voting welcomes all candidates into the race — and you can’t win if you don’t run. For example, a study of cities with Ranked Choice Voting (summaryfull report) found women and people of color are running and winning office more often than they are in cities without RCV.

+ Curbs Negative Campaigning

by rewarding candidates who reach beyond their base to find common ground with more voters. Voters are tired of toxic campaign rhetoric and mud-slinging. With Ranked Choice Voting, candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents. While candidates must still differentiate themselves to earn 1st-choice support, a campaign that emphasizes negative attacks over positive ideas may lose crucial 2nd and 3rd choice support. Comprehensive polling that compared cities with RCV to those without found that voters in RCV cities experienced campaign messages that were more positive and constructive.

+ Strengthens Party Unity

by tempering intra-party tensions during contested primaries and choosing nominees with a mandate from party voters. By allowing voters to rank primary candidates in order of preference, Ranked Choice Voting helps consolidate rather than divide competing party factions. The incentive to positively campaign under RCV means fewer rifts between party members after a hotly contested primary, and the requirement that winners demonstrate a majority of support under RCV will give nominees the mandate they need to rally party members behind them. RCV helps every party put their best foot forward heading into the general election.

How does Ranked Choice Voting work?

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters the option to rank candidates on the ballot in order of preference: first, second, third, and so on. You can vote for just one candidate like you always have, or you can rank additional choices — as many or few as you decide to rank.

Sample Ranked Choice Voting ballot showing how Ranked Choice Voting works

If your favorite candidate is eliminated, your vote is instantly counted for your highest-ranked choice still in the running, so candidates must compete for every vote. If one candidate receives a majority (more than 50%) of the first-choice votes, that candidate is elected. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped, and those votes count instantly towards the next choice on each voter’s ballot. This process repeats in rounds (a runoff) until one candidate has a majority. For more detail, watch this short video to see RCV in action!

Where is Ranked Choice Voting used?

Many cities around the US have used RCV for their local elections for decades. Maine became the first state to use RCV for federal contests in 2018, followed by Alaska in 2022. Ranked Choice Voting is used in some form in more than 50 jurisdictions. See the “Where RCV is Used” page from FairVote for more. Rhode Island can lean into better elections for all of us!

Help bring Ranked Choice Voting to Rhode Island by signing up to volunteer, donating, or spreading the word!