What is Ranked Choice Voting?

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) allows voters to rank candidates by preference instead of choosing just one. It works like this:

1st Choice: The candidate you love.

2nd choice: The candidate you like.

3rd or 4th choice: The candidate you like slightly less.

5th choice: The candidate you can stand.

RCV puts voters first. It puts more power in the hands of voters, where it belongs.

With Ranked Choice Voting, your vote has more impact on the outcome of elections. 

What is The Voice Act?

Problems with DC’s current election system:

1) Candidates can win even if most voters voted for someone else (for example, in a crowded field, the winner often ends up with less than 20% of the vote). This often can result in a winner that most voters don’t support.

2) DC voters are told to “hold their nose” and vote for candidates perceived to be winners instead of voting for who will represent them best. Instead of campaigns focused on issues and equity, campaigns focus on who is “electable”.

3) Communities end up splitting their vote between similar candidates, weakening their collective voting power. Politicians can then pit people against one another instead of doing the hard work to bring us together. 


An equitable election solution: 

The VOICE Act and Ranked Voting

1) Washingtonians are free to vote their values and choose a candidate who will represent their community best without needing to worry about “who will win”. This gives voters more choice, voice, and power in the process. 

2) Diverse communities can build community power together without vote splitting. Politicians are incentivized to bridge our communities, campaign across the city, and build coalitions that reflect the will of the people.

3) Fairer and more equitable representation of our communities because candidates have to get a majority of the vote. More voices are heard and more people get to vote for a winner.

How does ranked voting work?

Voters are free to vote their favorite candidate, and they can also have the power to rank their backup choices (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) if they like. If you first choice is in last place, your vote automatically goes to you next choice. This continues until someone wins over 50% of the vote. 

How Do At-Large DC Council works in the VOICE Act (2 seats)?

For DC voters, it’s exactly the same. You have the power to rank your choices up to 5 in order to elect 2 At-Large Councilmembers in the general election. After the VOICE Act, voters won’t have to read the instructions to know they can include a vote for their second choice – the ballot will look the same for every race.

For the Board of Elections (BoE), they use proportional representation, so our community is best represented by the 2 winners. The BoE makes two small changes from regular ranked voting to count the votes most fairly:

1) a “majority” changes from 50% to 33% if we’re electing 2 people in the same election

2) to determine the second winner, the BoE needs to account for the second choices of the people whose first choice won. The BoE gives a representative portion of the winning vote to those voters’ backup choices

Otherwise, it’s exactly the same as single winner ranked voting.

What are the benefits of RCV?

RCV Eliminates “Vote-Splitting” 
In RCV elections, you always get to vote for your favorite candidate, even if they don’t have a good chance of winning. If your favorite candidate gets eliminated, then your vote immediately counts for your next choice. You can truly vote your conscience without worrying about wasting your vote. Ranking your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th choices will never hurt your favorite candidate. It simply amplifies your voice in the process. We rank our preferences all the time in daily life. It’s just as easy to in the voting booth. 

RCV Increases Voter Turnout 
Cities that have RCV elections have seen a steady increase in voter turnout. Turn out improves with meaningful votes. 

RCV Fosters Civil Elections 
In RCV elections, candidates often need 2nd and 3rd choice votes to win a majority of the vote. As such, they will ask for your first-choice vote, but if another candidate is your favorite, they will also ask for your second and third choices. Candidates are not likely to get your second or third choice vote if they have been engaging in negative “mudslinging” personal attacks against your favorite candidate.

RCV Eliminates Separate Run-Off Elections 

With RCV, you don’t need to show up to vote twice in the event of a runoff. Instead, you get an immediate majority winner in a single, higher-turnout election. This saves money by preventing the need to run a second election.


RCV Promotes More Unity

Our state is at its best when we unite as one, but these days it feels like politics is tearing us apart. RCV helps make sure we all work together for the common good. It opens the door for candidates who put the interests of everyday voters first. 


RCV Promotes Diversity (OR Non-Established Candidates to Run)

More women and candidates of color have run and won in elections with RCV voting ballots. It gives all communities fairer representation and opens voters to support candidates with the best ideas, not just a narrow demographic. 


More benefits of ranked voting:

  • It’s been proven to promote equity and elect more women and people of color – The data shows women and people of color run and win more in ranked elections.
  • Fairness in crowded races – Voters shouldn’t have to worry about “electability” or splitting the vote. Our system should have fair outcomes, even in crowded elections. 
  • Voter choice, freedom, and empowerment – It reduces strategic voting and pressure to vote for the ‘devil you know’.
  • Ranking is natural and easy to understand. 
  • It helps dissolve toxic politics and changes the culture of power – It incentivizes coalition-building and appealing as voters’ second choice, not the zero-sum ego games and “wait your turn” dynamics of our current system.
  • Ranking preserves Native Washingtonian voting power and combats political displacement. When they implemented ranked voting in Oakland, CA, Black representation was maintained despite severe gentrification and displacement.
  • Candidates have to build a coalition that includes 1st *and* 2nd choices (you can’t win with only 2nd choice votes).

What are other RCV ballot measures being used in the United States?

Ranked-choice voting is proving to be the most promising reform to democratize and depolarize our politics and is gaining support across the country. 


In November 2021, 24 cities will use RCV for the first time. When on the ballot in the past five years, RCV has nearly always won, including in Santa Fe and Las Cruces. It has won in two statewide measures, with winning percentages averaging more than 65 precent of the vote in the 10 cities voting on it 2019-2021. The latest wins in 2021 were in Austin, Texas, the nation’s 11th largest city and in Vermont’s largest city of Burlington. Cities in Washington, Colorado and Florida may vote soon to adopt RCV. Pro-RCV legislation was introduced in Congress and 29 states this year, with four bills signed into law. 

Why change the system, and why change it now?

RCV has been in the United States for decades. There are no barriers to RCV under federal law or the U.S. Constitution and is widely used in strongly Republican, Democratic and swing states and cities.


It promotes positive, inclusive and fair elections that encourage a diversity of candidates and save money by eliminating the need for run-off elections.


Too often candidates are taking office when a majority of voters did NOT cast a ballot for them. RCV promotes electing a candidate who is supported by a true majority of votes, “50% + 1”. Ranked Choice Voting is a form of voting that promotes good government. 

How many candidates can I rank?

You can rank up to 5 candidates, as many or as few as you’d like.

You also have the option of ranking just one candidate. You do not need to rank multiple candidates if you do not want to.  

How do I fill out a Ranked Choice ballot?

Ranked Choice Voting is easy! Instead of choosing just one candidate, you can rank them all, from your first choice to your fourth.


Find the name of your first choice and completely fill in the oval next to their name in the “1st Choice” column. Then find the name of your second choice and fill in the oval next to their name in the “2nd Choice” column. Continue until you have ranked all the candidates you choose to rank.

To try it out, link here to test a practice ballot

Why should I rank the candidates?

  • More choice, more power!
  • Even if your favorite candidate doesn’t win, you still have a say in who’s elected.
  • You can vote your conscience without worrying that you’re wasting your vote or electing a candidate you don’t like.
  • Ranking a 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice will never hurt your favorite candidate.

What if I don’t want to rank 5 candidates? Do I have to rank 5 candidates?

It’s up to you how many candidates to rank. Your vote is most powerful if you rank 5 candidates, but your vote will still count if you only rank one or a couple of candidates. If you choose not to rank 5 , you have no backup choices when your top candidate(s) are defeated. But your vote still counts if you only rank one or a couple of candidates.

How do I fill out a Ranked Choice ballot?

Ranked Choice Voting is easy! Instead of choosing just one candidate, you can rank them, from your first choice to your fifth.

Find the name of your first choice and fill in the oval next to their name in the “1st Choice” column. Then find the name of your second choice, and fill in the oval next to their name in the “2nd Choice” column. Continue until you have ranked all the candidates you choose to rank, up to five.

Can I rank my favorite candidate more than once or in every position?

Your vote will count only once for that candidate, so it doesn’t help their chances of winning. If they are defeated in a round, you don’t have any backup choices to be counted in later rounds. It does not help your favorite candidate to rank them more than once.

Can I give different candidates the same ranking?

No. When the ballot scanner reads multiple candidates ranked the same, it will not count your ballot.

Does it hurt my favorite candidate to have a 2nd choice?

No, your 2nd (or 3rd, 4th, & 5th) choices will only come into play if your 1st choice is defeated in any round.

How are ranked choice ballots counted?

To win, a candidate must receive at least a majority of the total votes counted. A majority is 50% of the total, plus one vote.

After all the votes (including absentee and affidavit ballots) are in, counters will tally only the first-choice votes. If no candidate wins a majority based on first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is defeated, and the second choices from each voter whose candidate was defeated are reallocated as if they were first choices. 

We repeat the process until we are down to the last two candidates. In each round, the candidate now in last place is defeated, and the second choice votes on those ballots are redistributed.  If the second choice on those ballots has already lost, the voter’s third choice is then redistributed, and so on.

The process is repeated until the top vote-getter of the final two candidates is declared the winner.

What is +1 actually referring to (50+1 )?

50% + 1 is the definition for a majority of voters. The 50% represents half of voters, and the + 1 represents the one single vote needed to get over 50% and achieve the required majority. 

Just to confirm, the rounds continue until we’re down to 2 candidates, correct? Even if someone has already reached a majority of votes?

That’s right.  If there is no majority winner – 50%+1 in the first round – the elimination rounds continue until there are only 2 candidates left.  The winner is the candidate in the final two with the most votes. Depending on the unique circumstances of each election, it can take many rounds to reach a final 2 candidates. 

Typically, how many rounds do votes go through?

It varies widely depending on the number of candidates in each race and their success in garnering a broad coalition of support. 

If there are a lot of candidates, won’t we have too many rounds to keep track of?

It varies widely depending on the number of candidates in each race and their success in garnering a broad coalition of support. 

Does RCV and The VOICE Act encourage candidates to tell voters what’s their desired ranking for the other candidates, basically like an endorsement?

Yes. In fact, this is one of the selling points of Ranked Choice Voting. It is often advantageous, with Ranked Choice Voting, for candidates to cooperate and campaign together (vote for me No.1 and my cooperating candidate No. 2.  And negative campaigning is discouraged, because it often backfires, costing the attacking candidate 2nd and 3rd place votes.  There are even examples of candidates producing joint videos, mailers, and other campaign literature encouraging voters to rank them either #1 or #2 on their ballots.

Won’t it take longer to announce the winner because so many rounds must be calculated?

No.  The computer tabulation of the Ranked Choice Voting rounds is almost instantaneous.  Any delay in determining the final winner comes from the delays in counting absentee and provisional ballots required by DC or Federal law. 

Can a candidate game the system?

It is virtually impossible to game a Ranked Choice Voting election. Voters are generally able to figure out when a candidate is misleading them to gain an unearned ranking.  Other candidates will be sure to set the record straight regarding the deceptive candidate’s real record.

When are official winners usually declared?

The official winner will not be declared until all votes are counted including early, election day, provisional, and absentee votes.  Ranked Choice Voting does not make counting any ballots faster or slower than they were counted before.   Once all the ballots have been counted, the Rank Choice Voting tabulation is almost instantaneous.

Unofficial results, including the total number of in-person ballots that ranked each candidate as their top choice will be released on election night. 

If no candidate wins a majority in the first round, totals for each round will be released. Ranked Choice Voting does not speed up or slow down counting the ballots.

Why should we change the way we vote?

We always yell VOTE, but we rarely talk about How We Vote. The way we currently vote is fundamentally inequitable and unfair. Way too often, candidates win without a majority of support from the people. And when a race has numerous candidates, it is overwhelming for voters to have to navigate the strategic voting required to not “waste your vote” on someone “unelectable”.


The way we vote should reflect reality. Voters and communities in DC are in coalition and solidarity with other groups in a shared struggle for freedom and equity. Under ranked voting, similar candidates can emphasize what unites them and brings them together in solidarity. This breeds a healthier culture of politics.


Technology has allowed us to upgrade so many other systems in our society (healthcare, banking, education, communication, energy). Our existing voting machine infrastructure is already compatible with ranked voting and makes it easy to implement. Our current DC elections generate low turnout and a big sense of disenfranchisement – it’s time we upgrade our voting systems and strengthen our democracy to represent the needs of the people.

What are the extra benefits of ranked voting?

  • Elected leaders can only win with over 50% of the vote – they become accountable to and represent a real majority
  • Reduces the need for strategic voting, especially in crowded races.
  • A healthier culture of politics – similar candidates are incentivized to highlight what unites them and brings them together in solidarity.
  • Voters can vote their favorite (no need to worry about “electability”, “splitting the vote”, “lesser of the evils”, or “wasting their vote”).
  • Voters can vote for outsiders and less “electable” candidates (it will elect stronger Democrats and allow us to be inclusive of independent voters and communities).
  • No more having to pressure candidates to drop out (no more culture of “wait your turn”.

Is ranked voting too confusing? How will this affect seniors and low-information voters?

  • Ranking is intuitive and natural. We do it every day. The data shows voters of all races, ages, and backgrounds understand how to rank, enjoy the option to rank, and have no increase in confusion about the ballot. In New York City recently, voters of all ages, races, and geographies thought ranked voting was simple.
  • Our legislation will help the Board of Elections build a fully-funded, accessible, culturally relevant, and multi-language voter education campaign while working with trusted community leaders and organizations to make sure no senior is left behind and all voters feel confident about ranking their vote, regardless of what language they are most familiar with.
  • We’ve been ranking in DC for a long time: Councilmembers send out ranked surveys to better understand their community’s priorities, DC asks parents to rank schools in the school placement lottery, and the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) uses ranked preferences to determine a person’s placement on the list for public housing.

Do voters have to rank?

No! Ranking is an option, not required. Voters have the power to rank their preferences if they think other candidates deserve their back-up choices.

How will this affect turnout in DC?

In some places that implemented ranked voting, turnout increased immensely. A 2020 study by Eamon McGinn of the University of Technology Sydney finds that ranked choice voting caused a 9.6 percentage point increase in turnout in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. A survey of the data shows that RCV does not adversely affect turnout compared to our current system.

We hope that ranked voting will be paired with meaningful voter engagement and education programs that encourage people to look deeper at why we vote, what else we can do, how the system works, and how our vote can have more power.

How will we educate our diverse communities about this change?

Rank the Vote DC has a comprehensive, ward-specific education plan to reach every voter in all 8 Wards. Education comes from many different approaches and will be done in coordination with the Attorney General’s office, various Councilmember offices, grassroots and civic education groups, and the Board of Election. We will reach DC voters safely (following CDC guidelines) and meet where they are. Here are just some of the ways we are doing ranked voting education:

  • Continuous teach-ins and workshops for RCV education
  • Train ambassadors and people in solidarity to advocate in their respective wards and communities
  • Safely tabling at laundromats, bus stops, barbershops, grocery stores, farmers markets, recreation centers, voting locations, and other places where people spend time either standing in line or hanging out – during and after the pandemic
  • Go-go events where attendees can rank options for the next songs
  • Canvassing at public events and festivals
  • Parks and other public spaces
  • Collaborating with other orgs at their meetings and events
  • Knocking on every door and engaging with people face-to-face about what they want out of the system and what are the different ways to change it
  • Outreach to all stakeholders

How does this impact candidates of color and women running for office?

Under ranked voting, the data shows that more women of color run for office and that more people of color win their races. Luckily, DC Council is already majority Black and majority women. Ranking creates political campaign environments where multiple candidates from the same community of color can run without the worry of spoiling the election, splitting the vote, or being told to drop out.

For more research on women’s representation with Ranked Voting, click here.

Some data from a 2016 holistic study of “minority representation” in the Bay Area: In cities that adopted RCV, 24% more candidates of color won elections compared to the seven control cities in the region that did not adopt RCV and saw only a 12% increase in victories for candidates of color over the same time period. Cities that adopted RCV had 7% more female candidates of color run for office, while cities that did not adopt RCV stayed the same. Similarly, female candidates of color won 7% more of the elections held in cities with RCV, whereas cities without RCV saw a decrease in the percentage of winning female candidates of color over the same period.

For more data on ranked voting and representation for communities of color, click here.

How does this impact communities of color in DC?

To predict the equity impacts of ranked voting, we can look at historical data of other locations that have ranked the vote and also think about the incentives of a ranked voting system. The data shows that more women and people of color are elected (as we show in the previous answer) and it does not increase disparities in turnout among different communities. And the incentives under a ranked system are for candidates to reach new DC voters and be a top choice for the majority of the people. We think that this should be the bare minimum in a truly meaningful democracy.

No one can claim to know exactly how elections will play out under our current system vs. a ranked system. There is no guarantee that our current system or a ranked system will elect more leaders who are Black, Latino/a, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, or any other community/identity. What we can guarantee is that candidates will be able to run a different style of campaigning under ranked voting. Diverse candidates will feel more confident to run knowing they wouldn’t be “spoilers” for similar candidates. Crowded DC Council races might be less ugly and incentivize more young leaders to lead while educating and engaging their communities.

Don't we already have a DC Council that is majority women and majority Black?

Yes – and all the new women and Black Councilmembers support Rank the Vote DC! Just because we’ve had diversity on the Council in the past, doesn’t mean we should think our system will always support these voices in the future. We have to think long term about what kind of democracy we want to give to the next generation.

Ranked voting nourishes our history and culture while preparing and strengthening our system for an uncertain future. It will let historically marginalized people stay in solidarity with one another, while still prioritizing electing folks from their own community.

Although we have diversity in our Council, we’ve never elected a Latino/a Councilmember, despite making up 11% of our population. And there are currently no LGBTQ+ Councilmembers. This is not to say that with ranked voting, we’d suddenly have a perfectly representative Council. But ranking the vote allows people to prioritize electing candidates who best represent their communities, while still being able to put their back-up choices for more “electable” candidates who would also do a good job representing them.

What is the data that says this will reduce negative and toxic campaigning?

There are many ways to measure the effectiveness of ranked voting reducing toxicity. Let’s look at some data:

A 2020 Artificial Intelligence analysis of political debate word usage found that for ranked choice voting races, civility was improved with candidates substituting negative or neutral words for positive words.

Eagleton Poll provides in-depth analyses on socio-economic and demographic groups in the Bay Area. A key finding was virtually every demographic group that was studied – including low-income respondents, college graduates, Latinos, African-Americans, women, Independents and unmarried people – reported less negativity in RCV cities than in plurality cities.

A 2018 exit poll of Santa Fe voters found that 67% of respondents believed the tone of their first mayoral election with RCV was more positive than prior mayoral elections. Only 3% of respondents said it was more negative.

Candidates are less incentivized to attack each other, and encouraged to say, “We agree about these issues! If you like that other candidate, you should rank me second.”

Will the Board of Elections be able to pull this off?

Yes! The BOE accomplished Vote By Mail in a few months. The BOE will have 2 years to educate and prepare for ranked voting in 2024 with our grassroots coalition to support them! Our priorities as a coalition are community outreach and education. With guidance and collaboration from the movement we are building, we are confident the DCBOE will do an equitable and successful voter education campaign – reaching every DC community.

We will continue to learn best practices and education guidelines developed in other diverse cities like New York City, Santa Fe, Oakland, Minneapolis, Takoma Park, and Eastpointe, MI.

Will ranking cost more than our current system?

No! Our current voting technology in DC (The DS200 and ExpressVote from Election Systems and Software) is ranked voting compatible. It’s possible DC will need a software upgrade, but that is simple enough to get from the voting system vendor. There are multiple different software options that can perform this function, some available for free (the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center) and some for a fee. This equipment has been used for RCV elections across the country – in Maine and Minneapolis and in many other cities. New York City will be using the same exact equipment as DC to run their RCV elections this year.

How would the Board of Elections count ranked ballots?

Votes are counted automatically with voting software. Counting votes in RCV means 1) being able to scan in ballots and 2) being able to count ranked ballots round-by-round, if necessary. The equipment in DC can already scan RCV ballots. Once ballots get scanned in you then need to be able to run the round by round count. The count works by taking a spreadsheet with every voter’s rankings and running it through a transparent counting software. Producing results this way takes only a few seconds per contest.

For a refresher on how the voting software counts votes: If a candidate has over 50% of first-choice votes, they win and the election is over. If there is no majority winner, there is an “instant runoff” without having to run a new election. The least popular candidate is removed, and voters who ranked that candidate first will have their votes count for their second choice. This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half of the votes – a real majority.

Who will win under a ranked system?

The candidate who reaches a real majority of voters’ top choices wins. It’s up to DC voters and the candidates who step up to lead. It does not benefit or harm any party or ideology.

The incentives under a ranked system are for candidates to increase turnout. The data shows that more women and people of color are usually elected. Candidates will have to reach voters beyond their base to be a top choice for the majority of the people. We think that this should be the bare minimum in a truly meaningful democracy.

It is impossible to know exactly how past election outcomes would’ve changed with a different system. What we do know is that under a ranked system, there is no need to speculate about “electability”, worry about “spoiling” elections, or strategically vote. Voters can vote their values despite what anyone else thinks.

Will people rank their vote correctly?

We know from studies that voters are just as capable of marking ranked ballots as they are of marking non-ranked ballots. In both Minneapolis and Santa Fe, more than 99.9% of ballots were filled correctly. As with any ballot, voters have the easiest time using RCV ballots when they are well designed. Best practices have been developed for RCV ballot design so it’s easy to vote. Here’s a sample ballot image.

Will this make people more or less likely to strategically vote or “bullet vote”?

People “bullet vote” for two reasons: 1) The voter is unaware they can vote for more than one person in the At-Large race, or 2) the voter is strategically voting.

Voters who are unaware they can vote for more than one person will have clarity in a ranked system because the design of the ballot is inherent to allowing voters more than one option. With a ranked ballot, it is clear that you will have the power to rank your preferences because of the ballot design.

Ranked voting eliminates the need to strategically vote because your 2nd and 3rd choices do not hurt your first choice. Voters are encouraged to vote their favorite first without pressure from other people to consolidate behind just one person.

How will ranked voting work for our At-Large Council Member races where 2 folks are elected in one election?

In our At-Large race voters elect 2 candidates. The voting process is the same: voters have the power to rank their preferences. This eliminates the current problem (called bullet voting) where some voters only use one of their two votes in an At-Large race. A ranked voting system simplifies this process, making voting and ballot design the same in every race.

To elect more than one person in a ranked election is called proportional or multi-winner ranked voting. This is the most equitable way to vote, making sure that the winners most accurately reflect the people. In a two-winner election like our At-Large DC Councilmember race, winners still have to win with a majority. The goal is to have fair and proportional representation while eliminating strategic voting.

In a two-seat at-large ranked election, 66%+ of voters will select the two winners of the election, guaranteed. In the last unranked election, the two winners got only 40.73% of the vote combined even though they are supposed to represent the whole District. With proportional ranked voting, we would make sure the people we elect represent at least 66% of the District. Ultimately, multi-winner ranked voting does a better job of making sure our votes count and letting more people choose our elected leaders.

What is proportional ranked voting?

Proportional ranked voting, also called multi-winner ranked voting, is used for races where there is more than one seat to vote for, like DC’s At-Large Council Member races with 2 winners. It is a step towards proportional representation. Proportional representation means communities or parties are represented equitably in the legislature: the people who make the rules and laws look like the people they represent.

For the voter, the process of voting is the same for every race: you have the power to rank your preferences.

To ensure an equitable outcome, there is one extra step in the calculation process to determine who wins the second seat. Once a candidate reaches a majority (33% for a 2-seat race), they are elected to the first seat. Their surplus votes beyond the majority are transferred to their voters’ second choices – making our votes go as far as possible and making the outcome reflect the choices of most of the voters. The process continues until another candidate reaches a majority and wins the second seat. This extra step ensures stronger representation: the winners actually represent the majority of voters.

Will this help or hurt the Democratic Party?

Ranked voting will help stronger Democrats emerge from the primaries because, in a ranked system, a winner has to get a majority of the votes. It balances our voting system and ensures a fair outcome.

Ranked voting does not benefit or harm any particular ideology or party. It also lets our largely Democratic community in DC be inclusive of independent voters and communities.

What are the top concerns about Ranking the Vote in DC?

We’ve heard a few concerns emerge from our education efforts. Our intention is to list the concerns and address them. If you have another concern, please email us at rankthevotedc@gmail.com and we’ll get back to you!

Will this disenfranchise immigrants, seniors, low-information voters, and voters of color?

No, ranked voting will not disenfranchise anyone. It actually gives voters more power to have their voices heard through their votes. Any update to our voting requires a robust education program for DC voters. Many community-based organizations like our coalition are already doing the work to make sure voters know what to expect when they head to the polls. Some critics have suggested that immigrants and voters of color won’t be able to understand RCV, and that’s incorrect — with studies showing no difference in understanding of RCV between whites and people of color — not to mention insulting: If immigrants can handle the challenges they face on a daily basis, like operating in their second or third language, navigating government bureaucracies, or even learning to vote the traditional way in their non-native country, we are confident that they will be able to rank their preferences in an RCV election, just like everyone else. Ranked voting will empower communities of color to vote freely for candidates who are dedicated to racial equity, cultural preservation, housing justice, and community safety without worrying about strategic voting or splitting the vote.

Can the Board of Elections implement ranked voting?

There are best practices for implementing ranked voting successfully. We intend to work with the BOE and include all stakeholders in the movement. That is why we are building a grassroots coalition to support and guide the transition in our District.

Why rank the vote? Aren’t people worrying about the basics like making rent and feeding their families?

Who we elect as leaders determines our livelihoods from how the budget is allocated to who has access to resources. One of the reasons we have so many societal issues is because, under our current system, leaders do not have to be responsive to the needs of the majority of the people. Ranked voting ensures a fair and majority election outcome to equitably represent voters and address the needs of their communities. Rank the Vote DC coalition is also working in solidarity with Mutual Aids and community-focused groups because we believe systemic change happens by reforming democracy and meeting people’s basic needs.

What about all the other things we need to change about our elections? Like increasing turnout, enfranchising returned citizens, independent redistricting, lowering the voting age, creating an open or blanket primary system, expanding DC Council, and more?

We believe ranking the vote is just a step in strengthening our democracy. Ranked voting creates a fairer system that begins a conversation about how power works in our democracy and our District. Especially as we move closer to DC Statehood, we need to reevaluate the ways our system works and how to make our democracy deeply meaningful and delicious.

Why RCV versus another voting system?

There is no perfect voting system, and ranked voting is no different. Some prefer other systems like proportional representation, approval voting, or STAR voting. But each has its own disadvantages and advantages. We chose RCV because it is the most well-tested system in the US, it balances well between being fair and easy to understand, and it most significantly eliminates strategic voting.

Will this make gentrification worse?

Some long-time DC residents worry that change to our system may result in inequitable outcomes in a District that continues to feel the pain of economic and racial disparities, as well as cultural displacement and gentrification. We hear this concern and are proactively building a local grassroots coalition inclusive of racial, geographic, generational, and ideological differences. Ranked voting will empower communities of color to vote freely for candidates who are dedicated to racial equity, cultural preservation, housing justice, and community safety without worrying about strategic voting or splitting the vote.