Keeping Polling Real-Time with Ranked Choice Voting


This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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Ranked Choice Voting is a method of choosing candidates where voters submit a primary and secondary choice. Then through a process I’m not going to explain here right now, the winner is chosen using both the primary and secondary choices. This is different from our more simple voting process wherein voters only choose one competitor from each race. Running a poll that displays instant results for a ranked choice election becomes a challenge, but it isn’t impossible.

An Example of a Ranked Choice Poll

Here’s a poll that you can participate in using the three most likely candidates for the next Boca Raton Mayoral Race in 2020. This poll will run for one month. The results will be used to demonstrate how ranked choice elections work. Choices are presented in random order.

Pick your primary and secondary choices:

This poll is over.

Nerdy Bean Counting Stuff:

It was a challenge trying to figure out how to engineer a poll around ranked choice election. The biggest obstacle to doing it in a real-time poll is that there are two questions. If these two questions were asked separately there would be a big limitation: real-time results would not be able to display how many people chose the specific set of primary and secondary candidates. If we only showed, for example, how many secondary votes Bernie Korn got that wouldn’t show us whether most of those votes were from people who picked Singer or O’Rourke first.

The solution: by putting the combinations of candidates together in one choice it gives us the ability to show real-time results AND the granularity of how many people picked one candidate as primary and who their choices were for secondary.

These kind of elections only work when there’s more than two candidates. With three candidates there needs to be six choices in a poll with real-time results.  With four candidates there would be 12 choices. With five candidates there are 20 choices. So this kind of poll may not be practical to run with real-time results when there are too many candidates running for the same office.

Come back in a month and the results obtained from this poll will be used to illustrate how the ranked choice determination of the winner was calculated.

Thanks for participating.

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