Ranked Choice Voting - RCV

by Fred Elbel

Ballotpedia describes Ranked-choice voting (RCV) as:

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots...

In the most commonly used form of RCV today, sometimes called instant-runoff voting (IRV), if a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, and second-preference choices on these ballots are then elevated to first-preference. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

Ballotpedia continues, with several examples of RCV.

What's wrong with Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)?

Thomas Buckley concludes in the article, The problem with ranked-choice voting:

... RCV is being supported by the very same forces that are intent on preserving the woke class in perpetuity and see RCV as a way to muddy the waters, confuse the public, and in fact tamp down direct participation in our governance.

Preserve Democracy notes that:

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a political weapon and emerging threat to our democracy. It is a complex, multi-step process that confuses voters, escalates negativity, increases costs, and results in voter suppression...

RCV is already in 28 states. In 2023, NBC reports that legislatures in 14 states are considering expanding or implementing RCV. And Congress has introduced a bill twice before to make RCV mandatory in all 50 states for U.S. House and Senate races. If we don't act now, the entire U.S. election system is about to change.


The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) reported that:

Ranked-choice voting (RCV), also called 'instant runoff voting,' is portrayed as a viable alternative to the status quo, but in reality, it is a disaster. Funded by the progressive Left, RCV advocacy organizations claim that this massive overhaul can improve voter confidence by providing more candidate choices, decreasing negative campaigning, and ensuring majority rule. But these are false promises... Key Findings:

  • Ballots in ranked-choice voting elections are more complex than traditional "one-person, one vote" elections.
  • Exhausted ballots in ranked-choice voting races silence the voice of significant portions of the electorate.
  • Districts using ranked-choice voting have lower voter turnout rates.
  • Ranked-choice voting changes and delays the election counting process.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Lawmakers should ban ranked-choice voting at all levels of government.


Heritage Foundation reported in the study, Ranked Choice Voting Is a Bad Choice that:

... ranked choice voting (or "instant runoff voting") - but it is really a scheme to disconnect elections from issues and allow candidates with marginal support from voters to win elections. In the end, it is all about political power, not about what is best for the American people and for preserving our great republic. So-called reformers want to change process rules so they can manipulate election outcomes to obtain power. Key Takeaways:

  1. Ranked choice voting is a scheme to disconnect elections from issues and allow candidates with marginal support from voters to win.
  2. It obscures true debates and issue-driven dialogs among candidates and eliminates genuine binary choices between two top-tier candidates.
  3. It also disenfranchises voters, because ballots that do not include the two ultimate finalists are cast aside to manufacture a faux majority for the winner..

Ballot Exhaustion

How could this happen? Because of a phenomenon known as ballot exhaustion. A study published in 2015 that reviewed 600,000 votes cast using ranked choice voting in four local elections in Washington State and California found that "the winner in all four elections receive[d] less than a majority of the total votes cast."...

Many voters may only list their top two or three candidates, particularly when there are candidates on the ballot for whom they would never even consider voting.

Thus, if a voter only ranks two of the five candidates and those two are eliminated in the first and second rounds of tabulation, their choices will not be considered in the remaining rounds of tabulation. This ballot exhaustion leads to candidates being elected who were not the first choice of a majority of voters...

The report includes examples of Ranked Choice Voting, with several cautionary examples, including the Australian election of 2010, the Oakland, California 2010 election, and the Maine 2018 election. The report notes that:

Ranked choice obscures true debates, true issue-driven dialogues between and among candidates, and eliminates genuine binary choices between two top-tier candidates.


Another cautionary example of Ranked Choice Voting is the 2020 Alaska gubernatorial election, where 60% of voters cast ballots for Republicans, yet a Democrat won. See the article Baked Alaskan, by Ed Morrissey.

The Center for Election Science reports in The Limits of Ranked-Choice Voting:

  1. What RCV Doesn't Do: Guarantee A Majority
  2. What RCV Doesn't Do: Properly Address Vote Splitting
  3. What RCV Doesn't Do: Always Let You Honestly Rank Your Favorite Candidate First
  4. What RCV Doesn't Do: Work In Presidential Elections
  5. What RCV Doesn't Do: Help Third Parties

The report also mentions monotonicity failure where ranking a candidate as better can hurt that candidate and ranking a candidate as worse can help that candidate.

Further discussion on Ranked Choice Voting


Hans von Spakovsky: Ranked Choice Voting Leads to Voter Disenfranchisement:


Ranked Choice Voting Explained: Confusing, Chaotic Election "Reform" Pushed by Leftist Donors, Heritage Foundation, June 2023:



Ranked-choice voting (RCV), Ballotpedia.

Preserve Democracy

The problem with ranked-choice voting, by Thomas Buckley, American Thinker, 13 Febuary 2023.

Ranked-Choice Voting: A Disaster in Disguise, The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). 25 August 2022.

Ranked Choice Voting Is a Bad Choice, Heritage Foundation, 23 August 2023.

Baked Alaskan: 60% of voters cast ballots for Republicans. A Democrat won, by Ed Morrissey, 1 September 2022.

The Limits of Ranked-Choice Voting, Center for Election Science, 7 February 2019.

Republicans Must Stand Up to Ranked-Choice Voting, by Aaron Flanigan, AMAC, 3 November 2023.

Ranked Choice Voting Disaster, 9 April 2024.