Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) - What is it? 

Ranked choice voting (RCV) is a voting method in which voters rank candidates in order of preference (1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice). Ranked choice voting allows your vote to count towards another candidate if your 1st choice candidate receives the least amount of votes.

Arlington County implemented ranked choice voting for the first time in the June 20, 2023 Democratic Primary Election for the office of County Board (2 seats). 

How to Mark Your RCV Ballot

Voting a RCV ballot is very similar to voting a traditional ballot. With RCV, voters mark their ballots in order of preference - 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice.

How Your Vote Is Counted

All 1st choice votes are counted. If no candidates receive the required number of votes to win, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and ballots for that candidate are transferred to the voter's next choice. This process continues until candidates have enough votes to win.

If your 1st choice candidate is eliminated, your vote is transferred to your 2nd choice candidate. If your 2nd choice candidate is eliminated, your vote is then transferred to your 3rd choice candidate.  

If a candidate exceeds the required number of votes to win, they are elected and a fraction of each vote for that candidate is redistributed to the next active ranked candidate on those ballots, as determined by Virginia Administrative Code 1VAC20-100-10. This only applies when the first candidate to be elected exceeds the required number of votes needed to win. 

Why is Arlington Implementing Ranked Choice Voting?

The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill to amend Code of Virginia § 24.2-673.1 in July 2020 to allow localities to implement ranked choice voting in elections of members of a county board of supervisors or a city council. In fall 2021, the Arlington Electoral Board conducted a public engagement with Q&A and a “mock election,” and held a joint work session with the County Board to discuss this method of voting in the County. In December 2022, the Arlington County Board adopted the use of ranked choice voting for the June 20, 2023 County Board primary election, making Arlington the first locality in Virginia to implement ranked choice voting.

Benefits of using RCV include:

  • Ranking multiple candidates allows voters to still have a choice in who gets elected, even if their top choice does not win. 
  • Candidates have to appeal to people who might initially vote for someone else, improving civility in campaigns. 
  • Ensures candidates with the broadest support win the election. 
  • Supports more diverse candidates. 
Outreach & Education

Do you want to help educate our community about ranked choice voting?

Download Outreach Materials 

Stay Informed

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Is the voting process different with RCV?

Voting on a ranked choice ballot is a very similar process to voting on a traditional ballot. You will fill in the ovals on a paper ballot and then place your ballot into the ballot scanner to be counted. The only difference is you'll have the option to rank up to three candidates for the County Board race. 

How many candidates can I rank?

You may rank up to 3 candidates in the County Board race. 

If I rank three choices, do three votes get counted?

No. All 1st choice votes are counted in the initial round of tabulation. Only if your 1st choice vote gets eliminated will your 2nd or 3rd choice vote come into play. 

Do I need to rank all candidates?

No, you do not need to rank all candidates. You should rank at least one candidate as your 1st choice. If you do not rank any other candidates and your 1st choice candidate gets eliminated, your ballot will not count in any later rounds. 

Are all offices for the June Democratic Primary going to be RCV style?

No. Ranked choice voting is currently only being used for the County Board race (2 seats) in the June 20, 2023 Democratic Primary election. The offices for State Senate, House of Delegates, Commonwealth's Attorney, and Sheriff will not be using ranked choice voting.