• Ranked choice voting (RCV) is a way to ensure elections are fair for all voters by ensuring that the winning candidate has support from the majority of voters. It addresses the problem of "vote splitting" in elections, making it possible for new candidates to enter races and for voters to vote their conscience.

    How Ranked Choice Voting Works

    Instead of picking just one candidate, you can rank as many as you like on your ballot, in order of preference 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc..

    If a candidate receives more than 50% of the first choice votes, that candidate wins. However, if no candidate has more than 50% of the first choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and voters who picked that candidate as their first choice have their votes count for their second choice. This process continues until a candidate has more than 50% of the votes.

    Watch this 90-second video about how RCV works.


    Ranked Choice Voting:

    • Promotes majority support
    • Discourages negative campaigning
    • Provides more choices for voters
    • Saves money when replacing preliminary or runoff elections
    • Promotes reflective representation
    • Minimizes strategic voting
    • Increases participation from military and overseas voters

    More Ranked Choice Voting Resources:


  • Ranked Choice Voting addresses fundamental problems at the core of American democracy: how we choose our elected leaders and how we hold them accountable for their job performance. By improving how we vote, Ranked Choice Voting:

    • Fixes the spoiler effect: RCV largely resolves the issue of "vote splitting", where two similar candidates split up the vote so that a shared opponent wins. This means that

      • new candidates can enter tight two-way races without throwing the election

      • and voters can choose the candidate they really want without "wasting" their vote.

    • Opens elections to more competition: Eliminating the spoiler effect makes it possible for new candidates and new ideas to enter elections. Politicians in safe districts might actually have to compete for their seats. That means more accountability.
    • Better expresses voter preferences: A ranked ballot is a more expressive ballot

    • Encourages broad coalition building: Candidates have to builder broader coalitions to win the majority of votes.

    • Draws turnout: Making elections more interesting and more competitive will encourage more voter turnout (ensuring all voices are heard).

    • Discourages negative campaigning: Politicians want to earn voters second-place votes and don't want to alienate them by attacking their first choice.

    See Benefits of RCV for more ways RCV can improve our elections.

  • The cost of adopting Ranked Choice Voting would not be significant because the voting machines and systems used by Iowa are already compatible:

    A list of voting machines and systems used in Iowa is available at https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/covotesystem.pdf.

    Some of the manufacturers' brochures addressing their systems and RCV are available at https://www.dominionvoting.com/download/rcv/?wpdmdl=67454&masterkey=5f1f590f2ec3b and https://unisynvoting.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/OCS-Brochure-8-16-17.pdf.

    More information from FairVote is available at https://www.fairvote.org/voting_systems_and_rcv.

  • Use of Ranked Choice Voting is on the rise, and the map below shows were Ranked Choice Voting is used in the United States as of June 2021.

    Map of the US color-coded by how ranked choice voting is used in each state
    Image source

    22 jurisdictions are already using RCV, including:

    • Minneapolis, Minnesota: in elections for 22 city offices, including mayor and city council in single-winner elections, and some park board and board of estimate seats.
    • St. Louis Park, Minnesota: for mayor and city council races. 
    • St. Paul, Minnesota: to elect the mayor and city council. 
    • 23 Utah cities and towns: for city council and mayoral elections (as part of a pilot program).


    10 jurisdictions will use RCV for the first time in upcoming elections, including:

    • Alaska: to be used in November 2022 for all state and federal general elections and in the 2024 Presidential election.
    • Bloomington, Minnesota: to elect the mayor and city council members beginning in November 2021. 
    • Minnetonka, Minnesota: to elect the mayor and city council, beginning in November 2021.


    Many political parties use RCV for party elections/conventions, including:

    • Indiana Republican Party
    • Utah Republican Party
    • Virginia Republican Party
    • Minnesota Democratic Party
    • Oklahoma Democratic Party
    • Utah Democratic Party
    • Many minor parties, for internal contests


    For more information about where Ranked Choice Voting is used in the United States, please see:

  • For elections for local elections, state legislators, or federal congresspeople

    • Legislation must be passed through the Iowa Legislature or the US Congress.

    For political parties

    • Any party could choose to use ranked choice voting in their party conventions.