ACS Paper: Preserving and Expanding the Right to Vote: Ranked-choice Voting

December 3, 2006
David Cobb, Patrick Barrett and Caleb Kleppner

In this American Constitution Society white paper, Liberty Tree Fellows Patrick Barrett and David Cobb join Caleb Kleppner of Election Solutions in making the case for ranked-choice voting.


The most widely used voting system in the Unites States, plurality voting, allows for a candidate that the majority opposes to be elected. While perhaps the most notable example of this occurred in the Florida presidential election in 2000, this situation happens not only on the federal level but in state and local elections as well.

In this paper, David Cobb, Patrick Barrett and Caleb Kleppner advance an alternative to plurality voting that has been adopted by a number of localities across America. Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting or IRV, allows voters to rank candidates in order of choice. If a candidate receives a majority of first choices, that candidate wins; if not, the rankings are used to conduct a series of runoffs until one candidate receives a majority. If a voter's favorite candidate is eliminated in the runoffs, her vote counts for her next-most preferred candidate. Cobb, Barrett and Kleppner argue that ranked-choice voting presents a unique opportunity to improve our democratic structure by diminishing negative campaigning, improving voter choice, promoting greater discussion of the issues, eliminating the need for costly runoff elections and, ultimately, increasing the political power of all voters.

Additional Information: 

The Barrett, Cobb, Kleppner ACS white paper is located on the American Constitution Society website here.