A Sample Statute for Choice Voting

{Note: Choice voting is also sometimes called "single transferable vote" and "preference voting."}



(a) DEFINITION: "Choice Voting" shall be defined as a voting system which achieves proportional representation by allowing voters to rank candidates for city council in the order of their choice, according to the method described in Article XVIII, Section 1, subdivision B, Third; and by tabulating votes according to the rules described in Article XVIII, Section 1, subdivision B, Fifth.

(b) PRINCIPLE: Choice Voting tabulates votes based on the principle that any vote cast which would not otherwise help elect a voter's most preferred candidate(s), shall be used to help elect that voter's next-most preferred candidate(s). Thus, if a voter's first choice among the candidates receives more than enough votes to win, the surplus proportion of that vote will be transferred to that voter's second or succeeding (next-highest ranking) choice. Alternatively, if a voter's first choice candidate is eliminated, that vote instead will be cast for the voter's second or succeeding (next-highest ranking) choice.


Ballots shall be simple and easy to understand. Sample ballots illustrating voting procedures shall be posted in or near the voting booth, and included in the instruction packet of absentee ballots. Directions provided to voters shall conform substantially to the following specifications


CITY COUNCIL: Vote for up to 9 council candidates in your order of choice. Indicate your first choice by marking an "x" in column 1 next to that candidate's name, your second choice by marking an "x" in column 2, and so on. Do not assign any two candidates the same choice. If you wish, choose only one candidate Note that ranking additional candidates cannot affect a higher-choice candidate's chance to win.

{NOTE: Limiting choices is optional. In addition, tie votes can be allowed, but add new complications to the ballot-count.}

Third. TABULATION OF VOTES: In accordance with the principle expressed in Article XVIII, Section 1, Subdivision B, First, Principle, ballots shall be counted by election authorities according to the following rules:

(a) DETERMINATION OF VICTORY THRESHOLD: For any given election, the number of votes necessary for a candidate to guarantee an elected position shall be termed the "threshold." The threshold is used to determine transferable surpluses as defined in (b)(1) below.

The threshold shall be the fewest number of votes that can be obtained only by the winning number of candidates. This threshold is determined as follows:

[      valid votes cast     ]   +1
[  (number of seats + 1) ]

{NOTE: An alternative victory threshold -- not used in any public elections as of January 1998 -- is determined simply by dividing the number of valid ballots by the number of positions to be filled.}

(b) RULES REGARDING TRANSFER OF VOTES: The following rules regarding vote transfer shall apply to all stages of the tabulation:

(1) Votes acquired by a candidate in excess of the threshold for that election shall be termed his or her "surplus". A candidate's surplus votes shall be transferred according to the following rule: transfer a portion of each vote determined by dividing the surplus of the candidate by the total number of votes for that candidate. For example, if a candidate receives 15,000 votes in an election whose threshold is 10,000, that candidate has a surplus of 5000 votes and one-third (5000/15,000 = .3333) of a vote from each of those 15,000 ballots is transferred to those voters' next choices.

Votes cast for candidates who are eliminated (as described in (c)(3) below) shall be transferred at their full current value to those voters' next choice(s).

(2) Votes may not be transferred to candidates who have already met the threshold, nor may votes be transferred to candidates who have been eliminated. When a voter's next choice is not eligible for receipt of transferred votes, that vote (or portion of a vote) shall be transferred to the voter's next indicated choice until all choices on that ballot have been exhausted.

(3) If a voter omits or mistakenly designates any choice on his or her ballot, the vote shall be transferred to that voter's next clearly indicated choice.

(4) Any votes cast for eligible write-in candidates shall be tabulated in the same manner as those for candidates whose names are printed on the ballots; provided that the voter assigns any such candidate a choice in relation to other candidates appearing on the ballot for that office.


(1) Vote counting shall start with a tabulation of first-choice votes and with the transfer of a proportion of all surplus votes according to the rules specified in (b) above. Transfer of surpluses shall commence with the candidate having the largest surplus and proceed successively to the candidates with the next largest surplus.

(2) If the transfer of surplus votes to voters' next-choice candidates creates a new surplus, then a proportion of these votes shall be transferred to those voters' succeeding choices, until all surpluses have been transferred or all declared choices on a ballot have been exhausted.

(3) When all surplus votes have been distributed in this manner, a tally shall be taken. All candidates with less than 0.5% of votes shall be eliminated simultaneously. Votes for these candidates shall be transferred at their current value to the next-choice candidates named on these ballots. If a next-choice candidate already has been elected or defeated, then the ballot goes to the succeeding choice.

Any surpluses created by this transfer shall once again be transferred, and a new tally taken, until all surpluses have been transferred. Then the remaining candidate with the least number of votes shall be eliminated.

This process of transferring surpluses followed by eliminating candidates with the least numbers of votes shall continue until the number of candidates remaining matches the number of positions to be filled. Votes of the candidate last eliminated shall be transferred, and the election shall be at an end.

(d) DETERMINATIONS IN THE CASE OF A TIE: For ties between candidates occurring at any stage in the tabulation, determinations shall be made based on whomever was credited with the most votes at the previous stage of tabulation. In the case of any tie to which a previous stage does not apply, the tie shall be resolved in accordance with the general election laws of Washington.

(e) FILLING A CITY COUNCIL VACANCY: Any vacancy of an elected City Council member shall be filled by recounting the ballots from the general election which elected that member, in the manner specified herein for general elections, except that the vacating member's name shall be deleted from all ballots. The candidate accruing the most votes in the recount that was not elected to office in the original count shall fill the vacancy. For the purpose of filling City Council vacancies, all general election ballots shall be retained by election authorities for at least four years.

Fourth. PROVISION FOR CHANGE OF VOTING METHOD: The Council or election authorities may provide for the use of mechanical, electronic or other devices for marking, sorting and counting the ballots and tabulating the results, and may modify the form of the ballots, the directions to voters, and the details with respect to the method of marking, sorting, counting, invalidating, and retaining of ballots, and the tabulating and transferring of votes, provided that no change shall be made which will alter the intent or principles embodied in this Subsection.

Fifth. SEVERABILITY CLAUSE: If any part of this Subsection is declared unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction, the remaining parts shall survive in full force and effect. If a conflict arises between this amendment and any other pro vision of law, the policies and purposes of this amendment shall govern.

Recent Articles
October 19th 2009
A better election system
Lowell Sun

Election expert Doug Amy explains how choice voting can "inject new blood" into the elections of Lowell (MA), and give voters a greater incentive to participate.

October 16th 2009
Haven't Detroit voters spoken enough?
Livingston Daily

In Detroit, there have been three mayors in the past two years and the current one has come under scrutiny. Perhaps a system like instant runoff voting will help bring political stability to motor city.

August 21st 2009
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Limited voting, a form of proportional voting, will be used in Euclid (OH), in the hopes of allowing better representation of minorities.

July 2nd 2009
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New York Times

FairVote's Rob Richie responds in a letter to the editor making the case for proportional voting systems to bring substantive reform to New York's legislature.