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How Does Ranked-Choice Voting Work?

It’s complicated.

No, really—it’s complicated. In a traditional election, every voter gets one vote and the candidate with the most votes wins the election.

Ranked-choice voting, on the other hand, requires voters to rank each of the candidates in order of preference. During tabulation, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and the counting rounds continue until there’s a winner. 

Unfortunately, that winner is not always the most popular candidate or party. 

And to make matters worse, failure to rank every candidate can result in your ballot being thrown out in elections with multiple rounds of tabulations. For voters who won’t vote for someone who, for example, supports abortion, this can mean either your vote isn’t counted, or you must violate your conscience.

Ranked-Choice Voting in Practice

Let’s say 296,077 voters went to the polls for an election today. The number of voters needed to win a majority would be 148,040.


After the polls close, the results are tallied. If this were a traditional election, the Republican candidate would have won having received the most votes. However, none of the candidates reached 148,040 votes, or 50 percent +1. Both the Independent candidate and the Green Party candidate receive fewer than 10 percent of the votes, so they are eliminated. The Republican and Democratic candidates remain in the running for round #2.

In this round, 6,453 ballots were exhausted and do not count.

Why were ballots exhausted? What does that mean?

The 6,453 ballots that were immediately tossed were due to overvotes and undervotes on the initial ballot. Any remaining ballots that were tossed in Round #1 were not counted because the voter did not rank the 1st or 2nd place candidate after the other two were eliminated.


Now votes are redistributed to the second-ranked choices. In this round, 8,273 people who voted for either the Independent or Green Party candidates do not have their vote counted.

After two rounds of voting, the Democratic candidate was declared the winner of the election.

Overall, 14,726 people’s votes were not counted—including yours (since you voted for the Independent candidate as your second choice).

The candidate who was the people’s first choice did not win, while the second choice did.


You’re so right. It’s not fair! But it’s not supposed to be.

It’s supposed to benefit specific candidates and parties, which is why the loudest voices in favor of this election method come from the Left. By changing how Americans vote, they can manipulate who wins elections.

Ranked-choice voting is confusing, throws out votes, and reduces free speech. The exact opposite of what you want from free and fair elections.

We don’t even need to rely on hypotheticals—we have several real examples of this disaster playing out.

Alameda County, California

In Alameda County, Nick Resnick was declared the winner of a local school board race. Fifty days later, after an organization ran a third-party recount of the vote, it was revealed there was an issue with the algorithm, and it resulted in an error—the error being Resnick’s victory. Mike Hutchinson, who finished third, is now the winner. After this botched election, the Board of Supervisors directed a recount of every election using ranked-choice voting, including Mayor of Oakland. 


In the 2018 congressional election, 8,253 ballots were exhausted—meaning 8,253 voters didn’t have their votes counted.

Bruce Poliquin (R) received 46.33 percent of the vote ahead of Jared Golden’s (D) 45.58 percent. But since Poliquin didn’t receive 50 percent of the vote, there was a second round of tabulation. The secretary of state threw out the 8,253 exhausted ballots. Golden was declared the winner with 50.62 percent of the remaining ballots or 49.2 percent of the total ballots cast.

New York City

Ranked-choice voting mandates the central counting of votes and involves a complicated counting process. In 2021, it took 15 days to announce a winner in this primary!


When Alaskan voters turned out in August 2022 to select the late Congressman Don Young’s replacement, 60 percent of voters went for a Republican. But by the last round of tabulation, Democrat Mary Peltola was declared the winner.  

In this case, more than 11,000 ballots were tossed because the voters had cast their vote only for another Republican candidate. As a result, Peltola came out ahead by slightly more than 5,000 votes. 

Can Ranked-Choice Voting Be Stopped?

Fortunately, yes! In fact, Florida, South Dakota, Tennessee, Idaho, and Montana lawmakers enacted bills that ban ranked-choice voting for all elections. Similar legislation is working its way through Texas

More states should protect one person, one vote and stop elections from becoming a confusing game to be played.

At FGA, we don’t just talk about changing policy—we make it happen.

By partnering with FGA through a gift, you can create more policy change that returns America to a country where entrepreneurship thrives, personal responsibility is rewarded, and paychecks replace welfare checks.