Ranked choice voting (RCV), also known as instant runoff voting (IRV), preferential voting, or ordinal ballot voting, is an alternative to the conventional simple plurality form of political elections. Its proponents claim that the "one choice" format deprives voters of meaningful choices, leaves voters feeling like their voices are unheard, advances candidates who lack broad support, and creates increasingly toxic campaign cycles. RCV is offered as a potential solution to these problems.

RCV permits voting for multiple candidates running for a particular office by ranking them in order of preference. Instead of a simple list of candidates, the ballot presents a table with the candidates' names in rows and a numeric ranking in columns. Voters select one candidate as their first choice, another as their second, and so on. Ballots that fail to help the voter's higher choices win will count for their next ordered choices, so that all the votes have weight. This method makes run-off elections unnecessary, as ranking guarantees that one candidate will receive a majority.

In the United States, RCV is growing in popularity despite opposition from powerful business interests that see it as a threat to their control over elected officials through campaign contributions. Indeed, RCV seems to discourage negative ad campaigns, as candidates are competing for second choice rankings as well as first, and those may come from voters whose first choice was one of their opponents. This thwarts the billions of dollars that PACs and soft money interests pour into smear campaigns trying to steer voters toward their puppet candidate.

Results of RCV in action reveals it helps under-represented populations have a voice in government. Women and candidates of color have a better chance of winning in ranked choice elections. A short video explaining how RCV works can be found here.


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