2013 Minneapolis Sample Ballot (myballotmn.sos.state.mn.us).
by Tony Petrangelo
Oct 7, 2013, 8:00 AM

Ask Me Anything: Ranked Choice Voting

It’s an election year this year! In the City of Minneapolis that is. St. Paul too, and a few other places, but Minneapolis is where all the serious action is. This is the cities second year with the new Ranked Choice Voting system that was approved by Minneapolis voters in 2006. Despite this being the second year of the new regime, it’s really, the first time that we will get to see Ranked Choice Voting do it’s thing.

In 2009 none of the major races, for Mayor and City Council, lasted more than a single round of vote counting. This year, at least when it comes to the marquee race of Minneapolis Mayor, that will almost certainly not be the case. Ranked Choice Voting will get a chance to do it’s thing, so it’s worth exploring exactly what that thing is that Ranked Choice Voting does.

We’ve decided to do this as a sort of question and answer type thing. LeftMNer Steve has supplied me with some questions to get started, but you can ask questions of your own by pressing the button underneath my grinning mug on the left that says “Send Us Feedback.”

We’ll begin with the basics, how does Ranked Choice Voting work?

For this, the City of Minneapolis has created a helpful video presentation:

Below I’ve embedded the full Minneapolis sample ballot (from a random ward), lest the above video leads you to believe that you will have only four candidates to choose from. Rest assured, you have many more to choose from than that!

Download (PDF, 31KB)

If you prefer to see how the votes are counted in the form of internet words:

Step 1

Distribute all ballots to candidates based on those ballots first choice.


If one candidate has 50%+1 or more of the ballots that candidate wins. Election over.

If no candidate has 50%+1 of the ballots than we move on to Step 2.

Step 2

Eliminate the candidate with the least number ballots and reallocate that candidates ballots to the candidates who were chosen second on those ballots.

If the candidate chosen second has already been eliminated, reallocate the ballot to the candidate chosen third.

If the candidate chosen third has already been eliminated, that ballot is “exhausted.” Discard it.

Go back to Decision.

If this looks like a recursive procedure that’s because it is, and as all programmers know recursion is always good and cool.

I’ll get to answering questions in future installments, so if you have any, send them my way and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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