Ranked-Choice Voting explained
Often in local elections, several candidates end up vying for the same office. When there are more than two, like in Oakland's mayoral race, which has ten candidates, there's a good chance that none of them will get a clear win with over 50% of the vote. When this happens, there has to be another re-election, a run-off, to get a clear winner. Ranked-Choice Voting, also known as Instant Run-off voting, does away that extra re-election because it guarantees that a candidate will win the first one. Here’s how it works.
Instead of voting for just one person, you mark your favorite three candidates on your ballot. You put your favorite person in Column 1, your second favorite in Column 2, you get the idea. You submit your ballot, and the votes are counted.
First, only the #1 votes get tallied. If one of the candidates wins a majority after round 1, then the election is over and we don’t even need to look at the second- and third-column votes.
But let’s say nobody wins a majority after round 1. Three of the candidates split the vote: Jane gets 40%, Kathy 40%, and Larry 20%. Instead of doing a run-off election between the two who got 40%, we can resolve the issue right away, thanks to Ranked-Choice Voting. The candidate with 20%, Larry, is eliminated right there, and his votes are then redistributed, meaning that those people who had Larry as their #1 now have their votes reassigned based on their #2 choice. Let's say all of Larry's ardent supporters had Jane in their #2 spot. That means that Jane gets all of Larry's votes and wins over Kathy, 60% to 40%.
San Francisco adopted Ranked-Choice Voting in 2004. This story originally aired on October 19, 2010.