Should Libertarians Support Ranked-Choice Voting?

Written by Joe Dehn, former National Libertarian Party Secretary

Although the national LP platforms mention election reform, it does not endorse a specific alternate voting system. Some individual Libertarians have, however, been working to support adoption of specific systems, such as Ranked-Choice Voting or Approval Voting, either as something that should be endorsed by the LP or for actual implementation at the local or state level. This month we provide some information about Ranked Choice. If you are interested in working on this, or just want to find out more, you may want to discuss it with other LP activists at a meeting or through a Facebook group or other online forum.

Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) is a system in which voters may prioritize (rank) their choice of candidate, and a pre-defined procedure is applied to count votes for lower-ranked candidates if a voter’s higher-ranked choices have been eliminated.

In practice, there are a number of possible variations on this idea. The term Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV) is often used when the method is applied to filling a single office, while Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a way to apply the idea to filling multiple seats (e.g. for a legislative body). All of these differ from a traditional runoff election in that voters express all their choices while casting their initial ballot, so there is no need to hold a second election at a later date.

Ranked-choice voting has been used for state primary, congressional, and presidential elections in Maine and for local elections in more than 20 US cities including Cambridge, Massachusetts; Takoma Park, Maryland; St. Paul, Minnesota; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Portland, Maine. Here in California it has been used in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro, and this year voters in Eureka and Albany approved use of the system in future elections.

New York City is by far the largest voting population in the US that has opted for RCV, pending implementation in 2021.

RCV is also commonly used for student leadership and other non-governmental elections.

For more information or to get in touch with others who support adoption of this voting method, visit

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