How RCV Is Counted
In Ranked Choice Voting, voters rank as many candidates as they want in order of preference. If any candidate has a true majority (more than half) of the first preference votes, then that candidate is elected. Otherwise the RCV process builds a majority by eliminating the weakest candidates and transferring ballots cast for the eliminated candidate to the voters' next preference.
Marking the Ballot
For voters, Ranked Choice Voting is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3. Just rank your choices in order of preference. This sample ballot shows a voter who preferred Alice first, Carol second, and Bob third.
Counting the Votes
RCV ballots are counted in a series of rounds, as shown in the the flowchart to the right and the video below. First, all the first choices are counted, and if any candidate has a majority (more than half) the votes, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the last place candidate (the candidate with the fewest number of votes) is eliminated, and any votes cast for that candidate are transferred to the voter's next preference (if the voter chose to rank more candidates). After each round of counting, we check again to see if any candidate has won a majority. Otherwise another candidate is eliminated and there is another round of counting.
Here is a video demonstration of the count:
Counting Multi-Winner Races
Ranked Choice Voting can also be used to elect multiple candidates at a time, such as elections for At-large City Councilor. For more details, check out this multi-winner RCV example provided by our friends at FairVote and the following video: