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Brief: Proportional Ranked Choice Voting

RepresentWomen researches and advances the best practices for reaching gender-balanced governance in the U.S. Our research shows that voting systems shape the opportunities women have to run for office and get elected. This brief is part of an ongoing series updating our research on voting systems in the U.S. and the impact different systems have on women’s political representation. Previous installments in this series covered voting systems around the world and the impact of ranked choice voting (RCV) on women’s representation. The following brief covers how proportional ranked choice voting (PRCV) works, the history of PRCV in the United States, the issues with our current plurality/winner-take-all (WTA) system, and why PRCV is the best system to advance women’s political representation in the U.S.


RepresentWomen’s research shows that progress toward political parity is slow and uneven in the United States. Our research also shows that our current WTA voting system is partially to blame for the underrepresentation of women in politics because it rewards gatekeeping behaviors that prevent women from running for office. By removing the barriers women face, system strategies such as PRCV facilitate candidate entry, increase competition, drive deeper candidate-constituent relationships, decrease polarization, and yield more representative outcomes.

Based on the available evidence, we have found that PRCV mitigates the threat of majority tyranny and places power back in the hands of voters, paving the way toward a gender-balanced and representative democracy. 

  • PRCV creates opportunities for women candidates to enter politics by eliminating fears of vote splitting, decreasing campaign costs, reducing incumbency advantage, and encouraging candidate recruitment. 
  • PRCV enables multiple constituencies to elect candidates of choice. Because PRCV elections are multi-winner, multiple interest groups can be represented within the same district, allowing for diverse governing coalitions in terms of gender, race, and ideology. 
  • Women played a critical role in advancing PRCV within the United States. Not only does PRCV have a deep history of use within the United States, but women have been a part of this movement from the beginning. 
  • PRCV resulted in the election of the first women on several city councils, including in Cleveland, OH; New York, NY; Hamilton, OH; and Cambridge, MA. 
  • PRCV is the only form of PR compatible with all United States elections – both partisan and nonpartisan. The majority of local elections are nonpartisan, and PRCV is the only PR system that has been tried in the U.S. 

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