What's the Experience of US Cities Using IRV?


1) Two attempts to repeal ranked ballot voting in
Cambridge were defeated by the voters. It’s fair and ensures every vote counts. It is easy to get over the confusion of using a ranked ballot and the rate of spoiled ballots is low.         

Jo Caplan, Elections staff, Cambridge,

2) We started to meet in June to implement the new system and it was ready to go in November. The IRV election absolutely convinced me that this is the only way we should be voting local officials into office, and the election workers understood the new system.

Jo LaMarche, Elections Director, Burlington, Vermont

3) Cambridge has managed to proportionally represent itself in its local elections since 1941 without any need for single-winner districts or primary elections.

As you might expect, there were challenges to the use of PR elections (one facet of the "Plan E" charter) from the very beginning. In fact there have been five unsuccessful ballot questions challenging our election method (in 1952, 1953, 1957, 1961, and 1965). For the last 41 years, our local election method has been accepted by the citizens of Cambridge with minimal objection.

My personal observation is that almost all voting Cambridge residents feel that the intent of our election method is a good one and that they find the act of voting to be simple and easy to understand.

Rob Winters

, Member of the elections Technical Working Committee,

Cambridge, Massachusetts

4) The City of Cambridge has been using the single transferable vote method to count its proportional representation elections since 1941. As Executive Director (retired as of 7/1/06) of the Cambridge Election Commission for 18 1/2 years, I conducted and was Director of the Count for nine of those bi-ennial elections. During this time, in 1997, the Count was successfully computerized, reducing the time for the vote tally from days to minutes.

We have full confidence in the system and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have about it.

Teresa S. Neighbor,

Former Executive Director of Cambridge Election Commission

5) An assessment of IRV in San Francisco following the election showed approximately 87% of the voters, including non native English speakers, surveyed indicated that they understood IRV either “perfectly well” or “fairly well.”  This understanding is credited in part to voter education conducted prior to implementation.

Implementation of Ranked-Choice Voting Report
The City and
County of
San Francisco
, November 2, 2004 Municipal Election

6) The city of San Francisco saved millions of dollars in the 2004 and 2005 elections by eliminating the runoff election. People are glad they don’t have to go back to the polls and they are getting used to the new system.

Linda Tutlett, Deputy Elections Director, San Francisco, California


7) With no December runoff, voter turnout tripled and saved the city millions of dollars in the 2005 Assessor Recorder race in San Francisco. Increased turnout in communities of color was greatest, showing how IRV can produce a more racially diverse electorate.

By Rich DeLeon, Chris Jerdonek and Steven Hill
San Francisco Examiner, February 5th, 2006

8) IRV saves money as you don't need run-off elections and more voters are enfranchised because run off elections attract fewer voters.

Aaron Peskin, San Francisco Board of Supervisor



San Francisco

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Burlington, Vermont





Become a Volunteer


Contribute and help us

Build a better democracy

Join the Movement

Join the Movement