Vendor Guidelines to Ensure Voting Equipment Capacity to Run Ranked-Choice Voting Methods

Why Vendors Should Have Machines Ready to Implement Ranked-Choice Voting Methods:

Federal standards [Volume 1, Section Voting variations, subsections a.) through o.)] currently require voting equipment vendors to report on the compatibility of their equipment with different ballot types in use within the United States. Now, as the ranked-choice voting system known as instant runoff voting (IRV) gathers growing support, some counties and states are moving to require ballot type flexibility in standards for new voting equipment. In California, for example, Mendocino County, Alameda County and Santa Clara County all required machine compatibility with instant runoff voting (IRV) in recent request for proposals, and the state’s Help America Vote Act committee strongly urged vendors to provide IRV-ready equipment. The inclusion of such requirements is likely to grow. IRV is used in San Francisco’s major elections and has been approved by two-to-one margins by voters in Burlington (VT), Ferndale (MI) and Berkeley (CA). Louisiana and Arkansas require IRV absentee ballots for most overseas voters in elections that might go to runoff, and legislatures in Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Washington are among those seriously debating IRV. To meet the increasing demand for flexible voting equipment and to remove uncertainty for election officials suddenly in a position to implement a ranked-choice voting method, vendors must consider the requirements of these electoral systems as they develop and sell their equipment and software.

Summary of Ranked Choice Voting Systems
  • Instant runoff voting (IRV) ensures that winners in a single-seat election have majority support without the need for a second runoff election. Choice voting ensures fair representation for both majority and minority voters in multi-seat elections. Rather than voting for a single candidate, voters rank candidates in order of choice. This allows tabulators to distribute votes from eliminated candidates (with IRV) or elected candidates (with choice voting) to remaining candidates.
  • Administration of ranked choice systems: Voters rank candidates in order of choice, indicating their 1st, 2nd choice, 3rd choice and so on. The voting equipment either prevents voters from casting invalid votes (overvote, skipped ranking, listing the same candidate more than once) or notifies voters of errors and allows for their correction. The voting equipment stores ballot images of each voter's rankings rather than sub-totals for each ballot position. The output of the voting equipment is a data file containing anonymous records of each voter's 1st choice, 2nd and so on.
Summary of Cumulative Voting Systems
  • Voters have as many votes as there are seats to be filled but they can distribute these votes however they want, giving one vote each to several candidates, or all votes to a single candidate.
  • Administration of cumulative voting elections: The ballot must allow voters to cast a number of votes up to the number of seats and to give one or more votes to one or more candidates. The voting equipment must either prevent voters from casting an invalid vote (overvote) or notify voters of errors, allowing voters to correct them. It must record the total number of votes received by each candidate.

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
Black candidate for Euclid school board to test new voting system
Cleveland Plain Dealer

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
Reforming Albany
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.