All About Preferential Voting

A guide to measuring people's preferences

What is Preferential Voting?

Voters are allowed to rank preference ballots (first, second, third, etc.). First-choice votes are first counted. If one candidate has a majority, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the second choice is added to the first choice.

If a candidate with a majority vote is found, the winner is the candidate with the most votes accumulated. Lower rankings are added as needed.

A majority is determined based on the number of valid ballots. Since, after the first round, there may be more votes cast than voters, it is possible for more than one candidate to have majority support. This voting method is also known as ranked-choice voting or Bucklin voting, and is the default voting method used in our software.


The upsides of preferential voting

Here are the best things about running a preferential vote: 

  • Preferential voting ensures that candidates or propositions with the most votes and broadest support win, so voters get what they want.

  • Candidates or propositions that are opposed by a majority of voters can never win an election.

  • This voting method is especially useful when there are more than two options available on a ballot, as voters aren't forced to make a binary option.

preferential voting

The (potential) downsides


If you're implementing an preferential vote, be aware that:

  • Most voting technology is unable to assure vote integrity. These systems make it easy for people to vote multiple times and obscure the outcome of votes and elections.

  • Voters may need more information to understand how it works, as there are more steps and choices involved than an election with only two available options.

  • It can be tough to find a reputable vendor. Searching for a preferential voting solution will yield thousands of results, most of which cannot perform up to the standards you need.


How does preferential voting work?

how it works

  1. Voters rank the candidates or proposition by preference on their ballots.

  2. If a candidate or proposition wins an outright majority of first-preference votes (i.e., more than 50 percent), they or it will be declared the winner.

  3. If, on the other hand, no candidates or propositions win an outright majority of first-preference votes, the option with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated.

  4. All first-preference votes for the failed candidate or proposition are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots.

  5. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any option has won an outright majority of the adjusted voters.

  6. The process is repeated until a candidate or proposition wins a majority of votes cast.


Modern preferential voting systems

Preferential voting can be a fantastic way to make a decision for your organization. However, because of some of the additional complexity involved in tallying votes, you may want to consider seeking some help with the setup.

Self-administration of a preferential vote works well in many scenarios. However, having someone at your organization managing the process may cause some to wonder if their vote is truly fair.

For those cases, introduce an unbiased third-party into the mix and you'll have the foundation of a rock-solid preferential voting experience.



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