How IRV Works

How Instant Runoff Voting Works

Instant runoff voting is a ranked choice voting system that upholds the goal of majority rule in a single election

  1. IRV uses ranked ballots to simulate a series of traditional runoffs in which the last-place candidate is eliminated before every new round of counting. Voters rank candidates in order of preference. They may rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, with lower rankings never counting against higher rankings.
  2. First choice rankings are tabulated. 
  3. If more than two candidates receive votes, the candidate receiving the fewest first choices is eliminated.
  4. Ballots cast for the eliminated candidate are then added to the totals of each of those voters' second choices.
  5. The count continues until two candidates remain. The candidate with the majority of votes in the final round is the winner.
Note: An alternative form of instant runoff voting declares a winner any time a candidate surpasses the winning threshold (typically 50% plus one), either in the first round or during the count.

This animation explains the IRV counting process:


To learn more about the benefits of instant runoff voitng, see Why Use IRV?