RCV Candidate Tip #9: Encouraging Ranking Can Help You

This is the ninth in our series of weekly tips about campaigning under Ranked Choice Voting. This week we consider how in a multicandidate race, you can benefit from encouraging voters to rank beyond a first choice and also discuss the downside of urging bullet voting.

No Benefit for Encouraging a Bullet Vote


Bullet voting – the tactic of selecting only one candidate, despite the option to indicate a preference for other candidates – offers a voter no value under RCV. Some candidates mistakenly believe that if their supporters rank a second or third choice, this might dilute the strength of that voter’s first preference or hurt the chances of that favorite candidate getting elected. That dynamic can occur under the traditional system of voting in at-large elections to fill multiple seats, as is the case with the St. Paul School Board.


This problem does not not exist with RCV. Under RCV, ranking alternate choices can never hurt the chances of the first choice marked on the ballot. Second and lower choices marked on a ballot are only considered if you, their first-choice candidate, have been eliminated and are not in the runoff count. In this case, there is no impact to you if your supporters’ ballots indicate alternate choices.


How Advocating Ranking Can Help You


Some campaigns may see a strategic value in actively encouraging voters to rank a certain other candidate second – as a way of suggesting that supporters of that candidate might be wise to rank you as their second choice. Such “you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours” strategic alliances are common in places using Ranked Choice Voting. Regardless, a campaign would be wise to not risk insulting its supporters by asking them to throw away their runoff votes by not ranking backup choices.


Even if you chose not to disclose your rankings, you still might find value in broadly encouraging voters to rank beyond a first choice. As voters who have decided on a different first choice are considering the rest of their ranking, seeing that you seek broad support beyond first choices could encourage voters to give you more serious consideration for their second choice.


The Downside of Urging a Bullet Vote


If your campaign tells supporters not to rank beyond a first choice, you run the risk of discouraging voters who support those other candidates from ranking you as an alternate choice – a sort of natural retaliation. If there is a runoff count, you’ll also need the second- or lower-choice rankings from voters who preferred another candidate as their first choice. If your campaign identifies as uninterested in lower choice support by encouraging a bullet vote, you might decrease the chance that supporters of another candidate will vote for you as their second choice.


In case you missed it, here are our links to previous tips:

RCV Tip #1: Using the Language of Ranked Choice Voting in Your Campaign

RCV Tip #2: the Road to 50%+1

RCV Tip #3: RCV Messaging and Your Website

RCV Tip #4: Get ready to start asking for lower-choice support

RCV Tip #5: Can we host a fun ranked vote at your event?

RCV Tip #6: Training Your Campaign Team on RCV

RCV Tip #7: Candidate Forums

RCV Tip #8: Building Coalitions