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What is RCV Anyway?

Voting Methods Team of the League of Women Voters of Bould  | Published on 6/17/2021

What is RCV Anyway? - Click to view on Boulder Weekly website

A telephone poll in late May asked a wide range of questions about Boulder issues — homelessness, police funding, affordable housing, a library district, CU South, etc. — and included a question asking if Boulderites should use “ranked choice voting” (RCV) to elect their city council.

The Voting Methods Team of the League of Women Voters of Boulder County (LWVBC) is excited to have this question in the poll, although the question needs some clarification.

The question should clarify which of the many forms of RCV is being proposed. Consider these two good forms, used in different circumstances:

• For single-winner elections, instant-runoff voting (IRV) is one possibility. Broomfield is considering IRV to elect its city council — the same form that Boulder voters approved to elect our mayor beginning in 2023. In Broomfield, each council member is elected by voters living in a ward, rather than by the entire city’s electorate.

• For multi-winner elections, single transferable vote (STV) could be used. Boulder, in contrast to Broomfield, elects its city council members in multi-winner at-large elections.  From 1917 to 1947 Boulder conducted STV elections, resulting in a city council that proportionally reflected its electorate according to the important criteria of the day. 

The pollster did not know which form of RCV was the focus of the question. If we adopt the single-winner IRV form, then Boulder will have to create districts. If we adopt the multi-winner STV form, then Boulder will get proportional representation. Either way, citizens polled need more information so they can give a more informed opinion.

For more information on various forms of ranked voting that are labeled RCV (sometimes incorrectly), please read the article “What is RCV Anyway?” printed in LWVBC’s May newsletter.

Voting Methods Team of the League of Women Voters of Boulder County