Ranked-choice voting primer for Berkeley voters

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The city of Berkeley recently posted this handy guide to ranked-choice voting, and Berkeleyside is in turn sharing it with our readers. Ranked-choice voting (RCV) only comes into play when the top choice does not receive more than 50% of the votes. Worth noting: RCV has only happened twice in Berkeley out of the 12 council races since 2010: Kriss Worthington in 2010 and Lori Droste in 2014. See the county’s iPhone app to learn even more. A video of the process also appears below.

Learn how ranked-choice voting works to help guide your decisions for the Nov. 8 election, when several Berkeley City Council seats and the mayoral race will use the method if no one candidate gets a majority of votes outright.

Ranked-choice voting, which is sometimes referred to by its acronym, “RCV,” allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and eliminates the need for a separate, run-off election.

Questions? Ask them in the comments section.


Voters can — but aren’t required to — indicate their first, second and third choice for an office. Some voters choose only one top choice. If a candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, they are the winner.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of first-place votes, then the ranked-choice process is used:

  • First, the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated.
  • Second, voters who selected the eliminated last-place candidate have their votes transferred to their second choice. If they didn’t choose a second choice, they do not have a vote in the second round.
  • Third, votes are re-counted to see if there is a candidate with more than 50% of the vote.
  • If no candidate receives more than 50%, the process of eliminating the last place candidate and transferring votes is repeated until a majority winner is declared.

In Berkeley, the 2014 District 8 contest provides an example of how ranked-choice voting has been used. Alameda County also posts all ranked-choice voting results for 20142012 and 2010 for Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro, the three cities in the county that use this runoff method.

Ranked-choice voting is sometimes called “instant run-off voting” but that does not mean the election is decided on election night. All ballots are processed and counted before a race is decided.

The use of ranked-choice voting does not change any other part of the voting experience. Voters may continue to vote-by-mail or at the polls just as before.


RCV is as easy as ranking your top three choices: 1, 2, 3. For more information on how ranked-choice voting works, including video demonstrationsFAQs, and translated materials, please visit http://www.cityofberkeley.info/rcv. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters also has web-based resources to learn about ranked-choice voting.

If you have any questions about RCV, please contact the city clerk’s office at 510-981-6900 or elections@cityofberkeley.info.

This item appeared first on the city website and has been reposted here by permission. Keep up with city of Berkeley news via its News page, email or Twitter feedSee Berkeleyside’s 2016 Election Hub for complete election coverage.

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