RCV 101: How Ranked Choice Voting Helps Women

HOW RANKED CHOICE VOTING HELPS WOMEN CANDIDATES

Ranked choice voting mitigates some of the barriers to representation that prevail in single-winner plurality systems. Specifically:

  1. Ranked choice voting eliminates vote splitting and spoilers. In a ranked choice election, multiple women can run without having to worry about spoiling the election. In a ranked choice election, there are fewer incentives for gatekeepers, or party leaders, to discourage women and people of color from running, and fewer reasons for would-be candidates to refrain from running in the first place. 
  2. Ranked choice voting incentivizes positive campaigning. RCV elections are more civil because candidates have an incentive to find common ground with one another as they seek support from their competitors' supporters. Ranked choice voting encourages coalition-building and grassroots community campaigning, both of which tend to focus on the positives and similarities between candidates. Research suggests that women are more likely than men to be deterred by potentially having to engage in a negative campaign. 
  3. Ranked choice voting rewards issue-focused campaigns. Rather than spend time and money on attack ads, candidates in ranked choice voting elections can focus on leading more substantive, issue-focused campaigns. Such campaigns open up time for civil debates regarding policy and constituency-specific issues, helping voters get a better idea of who they want to vote for and providing a better platform for women candidates. 
  4. Ranked choice elections are more affordable. RCV elections eliminate the need for voters to return to the voting booth for a runoff election. Because this consolidates the election season, cities and candidates save money. Ranked choice elections also lower the cost of running for candidates; this can be particularly important for women candidates who are running for local-level positions for the first time. 
  5. Ranked choice elections ensure representative outcomes. Overall, ranked choice voting ensures that candidates in single-winner elections win with a true majority, rather than a plurality of the vote. Elected officials -- especially those who are considered "nontraditional" leaders -- govern better when they have the mandate to lead. 

DID YOU KNOW?

From 2010-2019, there were 156 local-level ranked choice elections in the United States. Thirty-four percent of all candidates were women, and 35% of these women won. Of the women who won, 38% were women of color. Overall, women won 48% (109 of 227) of the individual seats up for election. To learn more about these findings, consult our 2020 report, "In Ranked Choice Elections, Women WIN."

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