As Democratic clubs we have the opportunity to make our voting methods more equal, honest, accurate, simple and expressive.
Most club votes are determined by a simple majority but many clubs have a higher threshold for votes on endorsements and resolutions in order that a plurality of club members determine the outcome.
For endorsements clubs may allow for several rounds of voting if no candidate reaches the required threshold, with the lowest vote-getter being eliminated in each round.
Have you ever attended a club endorsement meeting with races that went to multiple rounds of voting? And where the candidates whose supporters voted and left the meeting early were disadvantaged against those whose supporters hung around through the subsequent rounds of voting? Read on…
Ranked Choice Voting
Also known as Instant Runoff Voting, Ranked Choice Voting makes multiple rounds of voting more efficient.
One ballot is all that’s required.
- Save time
- Save paper
- People who have to leave an endorsement meeting early can still participate in subsequent “rounds” of voting
The idea is that you rank your choices in order of preference, and everything works out just as if you’d gone through multiple rounds. The highest vote-getter goes through each time, and the lowest vote-getter is eliminated.
To insure a plurality of club members when determining an endorsement consideration, you may choose to set a minimum threshold for First Choice depending on the number of candidates in the race. For example the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action has this provision in the section of their Bylaws (June 2019) that covers Ranked Choice Voting:
In races in which there are only two (2) candidates seeking the club endorsement; if no candidate receives the required 60 percent vote of First Choice for endorsement but has received at least 50 percent vote of First Choice, then subsequent tallying of choices from the ballot shall be included.
In races in which there are only three (3) or more candidates seeking the club endorsement; if no candidate receives the required 60 percent vote of First Choice for endorsement but has received at least 40 percent vote of First Choice, then subsequent tallying of choices from the ballot shall be included.
Here’s another primer on Rank Choice Voting also known as Instant Run-off Voting, prepared by Phil Currier of the Torrey Pines Democratic Club, that can be used during a meeting to explain to members how the process works. The last two slides can be used as a sample ballot, to reduce errors from first time users.
STAR (Score then Automatic Runoff) Voting
In STAR Voting instead of Ranking candidates they are Scored, much as you might score a product on Amazon or movie on Netflix. (It’s often easier to score a movie 3-stars or 5-stars than it is to rank multiple movies in order of preference.)
With STAR the winner is then determined in two steps. First, all the scores for all the candidates are added up. The second step is an automatic runoff between the two highest scoring candidates. In the runoff, your full vote is automatically assigned to whichever of the top two candidates you rated higher.
You can create your own STAR voting poll or take part in public polls at star.vote.
With Ranked Choice Voting second choice votes are only counted for those voters who happen to see their first choice eliminated before their second choice – if your first choice hangs around in the count longer, your second choice is never considered.
With STAR voting every score is counted for all of your choices.
Which system is better for your club? There’s a lot more information available online at:
Codi Vierra and Michael Brackney spoke about RCV and STAR voting at the Council of Clubs meeting in August 2018 – read more here.