How ranked-choice voting works

It can be confusing, so here’s a guide to how votes are counted in Minneapolis and St. Paul elections.

How ranked-choice voting works

It can be confusing, so here’s a guide to how votes are counted in Minneapolis and St. Paul elections.

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Votes transfer between candidates
Mayoral Candidate A
Mayoral Candidate B
Mayoral Candidate C
Mayoral Candidate D
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Tallying votes can be tricky

If no candidate wins a majority of votes in the first round, all votes must be tallied before a winner can be declared.

To correctly determine how to redistribute votes from eliminated candidates, one must know the order of rankings on each ballot. With a small field of candidates, this is not very difficult. But the possible combinations of ballot rankings increases exponentially with more candidates.

In the 2017 Minneapolis mayoral election, there will be 16 candidates on the ballot. Without considering a single write-in, this means there are 3,120 possible rankings.

The city of Minneapolis will use an electronic system to determine the winner, so such calculations will take little time. But by law, recounts must be performed by hand, so this complexity may still be a factor.

If such tallying is required (by computer or by hand), the city of Minneapolis won't announce the winners of ranked-choice races until the day after the election — at the earliest.

In St. Paul, where 10 candidates are running for mayor, the process may take much longer. Elections officials are not using an electronic system and do not expect to have the final results until the evening of Saturday, Nov. 11.

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