Ranked Choice Voting Vocabulary List and Acronyms

Approval Voting: A voting system where voters can select multiple candidates they approve of, with the candidate receiving the most approvals winning.

Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem: A mathematical theorem that states no voting system can satisfy a specific set of criteria, including the Condorcet and monotonicity criteria, when there are three or more candidates.

Ballot Exhaustion: Occurs when a voter’s ballot has no more ranked choices, so it is no longer considered in the vote tallying process.

Condorcet Criterion: The principle that an electoral system should always elect the Condorcet Winner if one exists.

Condorcet Winner: A candidate who would win a head-to-head contest against every other candidate in an election.

Duverger’s Law: A political science principle suggesting that single-member district plurality systems, like FPTP, tend to favor a two-party system.

Election Threshold: A minimum percentage of votes that a party or candidate must receive to be eligible for representation in a legislature.

Electoral Reform: The process of changing or improving electoral systems or voting processes.

First-past-the-post (FPTP): An electoral system where the candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of whether they have a majority.

Gerrymandering: The practice of manipulating electoral district boundaries to favor one political party or group, often resulting in distorted representation.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV): Another term for Ranked Choice Voting, emphasizing that the voting process eliminates the need for separate runoff elections.

Majority: When a candidate receives more than 50% of the total votes cast.

Monotonicity Criterion: The principle that an electoral system should not allow a candidate to lose by gaining votes or win by losing votes.

Plurality: The highest number of votes received by a candidate, which may be less than a majority.

Preference Schedule: A table or diagram showing the preferences of each voter in an election, often used to illustrate RCV or other preference-based voting systems.

Proportional Representation: An electoral system designed to allocate seats in a legislative body in proportion to the number of votes each party or candidate receives.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV): An electoral system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference instead of choosing just one candidate.

Simplicity Criterion: The principle that an electoral system should be easy for voters to understand and for election officials to administer.

Single Transferable Vote (STV): A proportional representation version of RCV, where multiple candidates are elected from a single district, and voters rank candidates in order of preference.

Spoiler Effect: A phenomenon in which a third-party or independent candidate’s presence in an election draws votes away from a major party candidate, potentially changing the election outcome.

Tactical Voting: When voters cast their ballots based on the perceived electability of candidates, rather than their true preferences.

Top-two Primary: A primary election in which the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

Two-round System: An electoral system in which a second round of voting is held if no candidate achieves a majority in the first round.

Voter Turnout: The percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election.

Vote Splitting: When two or more similar candidates divide the votes of a particular group, reducing their overall electoral impact.

AV: Approval Voting

BES: Ballot Exhaustion Syndrome

CG: Condorcet Guarantee

CC: Condorcet Criterion

CW: Condorcet Winner

DL: Duverger’s Law

ET: Election Threshold

FPTP: First-past-the-post

GM: Gerrymandering

IRV: Instant Runoff Voting

MC: Monotonicity Criterion

PS: Preference Schedule

PR: Proportional Representation

RCV: Ranked Choice Voting

SC: Simplicity Criterion

SE: Spoiler Effect

STV: Single Transferable Vote

TV: Tactical Voting

TTP: Top-two Primary

TRS: Two-round System