Frequently Asked Questions
General RCV Questions
What is ranked choice voting?
Ranked choice voting (RCV) is a simple upgrade to our current voting system that allows voters to rank multiple candidates in the order of their preference.
How does RCV work?
With RCV, voters cast a single ballot and rank candidates in the order they prefer (first choice, second choice, third choice, and so on). Voters’ first choices are then counted. If a candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, meaning more than 50%, that candidate wins. If no candidate has a majority of first-choice votes, the race is decided by an “instant runoff” (RCV is also known as Instant-Runoff Voting, or IRV). In the instant runoff process, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and voters who picked that candidate as their first choice will have their vote moved to their second choices automatically. This continues until one candidate has over 50% of the vote and wins the election.
Why is RCV a better way to vote?
Ranked choice voting is a better way to vote than our current winner-take-all system because it:
Promotes majority support
- More than half of all voters will select the winner with one of their choices.
Encourages positive campaigning
- In addition to campaigning for 1st choice votes, candidates also compete to be the 2nd or even 3rd choice of their opponents’ supporters which disincentivizes negative campaigning.
Provides more choice for voters
- RCV encourages more candidates to run because they don’t have to worry about taking away votes from a similar candidate or waiting for “their turn.” This inherently promotes diversity of political viewpoints as well as diversity of backgrounds, beliefs, and demographics
Allows voters to vote for their preferred candidate
- Voters are able to cast their first-choice vote for a candidate they like the most rather than voting against the candidate they oppose the most. In addition, voters can vote for their first-choice candidate without fear of “vote splitting” or throwing away their vote.
- Saves tax dollars
RCV eliminates the need for separate, expensive runoff elections because it is designed to produce a winner who receives a majority of support in a single election.
For example, the 2019 Chicago mayoral runoff election cost taxpayers $3.4 million dollars. This cost would not have been incurred with RCV because the runoff would have occurred instantly in the general election. This is why RCV is sometimes referred to as “instant-runoff voting.”
- Promotes majority support
How many candidates can I rank?
The number of candidates a voter can rank in an RCV election may differ by community based on local laws, the number of candidates running, capabilities of voting equipment and software, and other factors. In general, RCV elections allow voters to rank at least three candidates.
Am I allowed to vote for just one candidate?
Yes. Voters are not required to rank candidates in an RCV election. A voter may select just one candidate as their preferred choice and choose to not rank additional candidates, and this will not harm their first choice’s chances of winning. However, the benefit of ranking candidates is that your ballot will continue to count if your first choice is eliminated.
Does RCV mean you get to vote more than once or that you get more than one vote?
No. Just like our current winner-take-all voting system, you still get only one vote per race with RCV. The difference is, you have the option to rank your choices rather than only selecting your first choice.
Does RCV favor one political party?
No. RCV does not favor any one political party. RCV is a non-partisan voting reform designed to improve freedom and fairness in our elections. RCV has support in both major political parties, among third parties, and among independent voters.
What kind of candidates win RCV elections?
Candidates that do best in RCV elections appeal to a large number of voters in order to gain first-choice support and attract second and even third choices. RCV prevents candidates from winning by only appealing to a small base of voters in a fractured field - a viable and commonly used strategy with our current winner-take-all system.
Is RCV constitutional?
Yes. The U.S. Constitution does not indicate a method or specific voting system for federal, state, and local elections. The following cases have all upheld RCV as constitutional.
- Baber v. Dunlap, 1:18-cv-465 (D.Me. Dec. 13, 2018) (upholding RCV in Maine)
- Dudum v. Arntz, 640 F.3d 1098 (9th Cir. 2011) (upholding RCV in San Francisco)
- McSweeney v. City of Cambridge, 665 N.E.2d 11 (Mass. 1996) (upholding RCV in Cambridge);
- Minn. Voters Alliance v. City of Minneapolis, 766 N.W.2d 683 (Minn. 2009) (upholding RCV in Minneapolis)
- Stephenson v. Ann Arbor Bd. of Comm'rs, No. 75-10166 AW (Mich. Cir. Ct. Cnt'y of Jackson 1975) (Michigan district level court upholding RCV in Ann Arbor)
Questions about RCV in Illinois
Where is ranked choice voting currently used?
RCV is already used in our state capital, Springfield, for overseas and military voters participating in local elections. It hasn't yet been adopted for any other elections in Illinois. Nationally, it's used in Maine and Alaska, as well as several municipalities, including New York City, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and more.
What is the process for adopting RCV in Illinois?
For any level of government to use RCV would require either state legislation or a local referendum. Some local governments would need a change in state law while others could use RCV in local elections (mayor, city or town council, etc.) through a referendum.
Are there any current efforts to implement RCV in Illinois?
SB1785 was introduced in the Illinois State Senate on February 26, 2021, which would implement RCV for the elections of the State House of Representatives, State Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller, and Treasurer.
A similar bill, HB2416, was introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives on February 17, 2021.
Who supports RCV in Illinois?
As of April 30, 2021, these are the representatives and local officials who support RCV in Illinois:
- Laura Murphy, 28th District
- Mike Simmons, 7th District
- Scott Bennett, 52nd District
- Robert Peters, 13th District
- Ann Gillespie, 27th District
- Laura Fine, 9th District
- Sara Feigenholtz, 6th District
Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas
State House of Representatives:
Jaime Andrade, 40th District
- Matt Martin, 47th Ward
Questions About FairVote Illinois
What is FairVote Illinois?
We are a non-partisan organization, made up of volunteers, that advocates for ranked choice voting in Illinois.
Our mission is to empower Illinois voters to be heard, supported, and represented by improving freedom and fairness in our elections through ranked choice voting.
What does FairVote Illinois do?
Fairvote Illinois is raising awareness of — and support for — RCV in the state, educating voters and politicians about the benefits of RCV and working to implement RCV throughout Illinois for local, state and federal elections.
We do this through the hard work of volunteers who canvas at events, promote RCV online and through social media, contact their representatives, recruit others to join our cause, coordinate with other community groups, and so much more.
How can I support FairVote Illinois?
There are several ways you can get involved with FairVote Illinois, from joining one of our many teams and/or canvassing at events, to making a donation or simply signing up to show your support for RCV in Illinois. Join us for one of our statewide monthly meetings to learn more about the ins and outs of FairVote Illinois and find a way to contribute that works best for you. Click here to view our events calendar and RSVP to our next meeting. All are welcome.
Click here to see all the ways you can help FairVote Illinois.
How is FairVote Illinois funded?
FairVote Illinois is funded entirely by individual donations from supporters of RCV. We are an independent, non-partisan organization and are not funded by any partisan or corporate interests.