Bring RCV to your school or organization

Bringing PR (proportional representation) and RCV (Ranked Choice Voting) to your local organization is an excellent way to both improve your org’s governance and show people how effective these election systems can be.

If a group you’re affiliated with (political party, union, civic group, club, school, etc.) needs to make a group decision, such as electing a president or board, or just choosing a meeting time and date, please suggest that it make the decision using ranked-choice voting. We can also help you give a presentation to your group on new election methods. If you can convince your group to endorse a formal resolution in support of election reform legislation, this can be extremely valuable in such efforts.

CfER members at UC Davis helped implement multi-winner ranked choice voting there. Their report two elections later reflects efforts to do this and demonstrates the challenges that emerge. K. D. Weinert of Venice successfully campaigned for use of single-winner ranked-choice voting and Cumulative Voting by the Grassroots Venice Neighborhood Council (an advisory group for local government). Be sure to read his well-written report.

When should we use RCV?

Ranked Choice Voting, the kind of PR that works best for non-partisan elections, is appropriate when you have 

  1. A multi-member body, like a council, executive board, or board of directors to elect. Having all voters use a single RCV ballot — rather than splitting up voters by district or some other means — will result in everyone feeling that they have a voice at the table, without thwarting the will of the majority. This can be very helpful in resolving disputes and providing for greater unity in your organization.
  2. Single-winner elections with at least 3 candidates. With RCV, the winner will have majority support, but you won’t have to deal with a runoff election (this is why RCV is sometimes referred to as Instant Runoff Voting).

Adopting a resolution and updating your by-laws

Your by-laws do not need to specify every detail of how PR and RCV works. By-laws are best kept brief and high level. What they must do is define PR and RCV, and then your Board of Directors will adopt specific procedures for how to run the election. Use this by-law template to get started:

Amend Section ___, to read:

The Board of Directors shall be elected using Choice Voting. Officers shall be elected using Ranked Choice Voting. Choice Voting provides for greater inclusiveness, without thwarting the will of the majority. Ranked Choice Voting guarantees that the winner has majority support, without having runoff elections.

Choice Voting is defined as an election system in which voters are to able to rank as many candidates as they wish in order of preference. Any of those candidates who reach a certain threshold are deemed to have been elected. The election is counted is rounds. Each round, the candidate with the fewest number of votes is defeated and the votes distributed on the basis of preferences to the remaining candidates until sufficient candidates reach the threshold and are, as a result, elected. No elected candidates are allowed to have more votes than they need to get elected; they cannot receive any more votes after they are elected.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is the same as Choice Voting, except it is used when there is only one candidate to be elected. In RCV, the threshold will always be a simple majority of the votes, and since there is only candidate elected, there are no surplus votes to transfer.

The Board of Directors must specify rules and procedures for all elections. The rules and procedures must comply with the definitions stated above.

How to capture and count votes

We suggest using an online RCV polling system. FairVote offers RankIt, a free tool for casual polling and OpaVote, a paid voting system with built-in security and more convenience features.

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