Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Plain English Explanation of Scottish STV

Scottish STV is a great method to use for electing a group of people. To help you and your voters understand how it works, we give a "plain English" explanation of how votes are counted with Scottish STV.

If you'd like to see additional details, you are welcome to review the statute passed by Scotland.

At a high level, the vote count takes place in rounds.  For the first round, you count the first place votes.  For subsequent rounds, you will either (1) transfer surplus votes from a candidate or (2) eliminate a candidate.  We'll assume that you've read our STV overview and understand what surplus votes are.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Ranked-Choice Voting Results in San Francisco

San Francisco is in the process of counting the ranked-choice voting ballots for its city elections.  To make it easier to visualize the results, we have also processed the ballots with OpaVote and are sharing our results.  You can see an example bar chart here, and click the links below for full results.

San Francisco is amazing in that they publish all of the ballot data.  You can download it yourself here.  We downloaded the ballot data, converted it into the BLT format used by OpaVote, counted the ballots, and you can see our results here:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Increase Voter Turnout With Online Elections

Whether it's a national election or one for student body president, improving voter turnout is a central concern. High voter participation makes for better representation and greater civic engagement. Establishing more voting locations is a traditional method of making voting easier, but what if you could put a ballot box in every voter's pocket?

OpaVote's online voting tool makes that possible. Online voting means no printing (and possibly misprinting) paper ballots. It means voter choices are clear, with no attempts to read half-erased selections. Online ballots are secure and private, and OpaVote offers multiple voting formats that allow voters to rank options, select single or multiple options, and you can add links to the ballot, a crucial detail in elections with ballot questions.

OpaVote offers the online voting tool of the future with prices for the present. OpaVote offers the same security and flexibility as its competitors at a fraction of the cost. You can quickly poll a committee for free, or have as many as 10,000 voters for an election cycle lasting more than a year for less than it costs to print and send paper ballots. You can do more than boost voter turnout with OpaVote. You can give your organization the tools it needs to connect with the people you value the most.

For more information, visit!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Election Transparency and Free Recounts for Voters

At OpaVote, we want voters to have confidence in the outcome of the election. Especially for hotly contested elections, there may be allegations of fraud or other bad acts to improperly influence the election.

The ability of voters to verify that the election was conducted properly can be referred to as election transparency.  The two main questions in election transparency are:
  1. Were the ballots collected correctly (e.g., were ballots modified or discarded)?
  2. Were the ballot counted correctly?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why use ranked-choice voting over approval voting

Voting is not an easy task for a voter.  I don't mean taking time off work, getting to the polls, and waiting in line, etc.  I mean, when you are standing there in the ballot box, you have to decide what vote you want to cast given the options presented to you.  For example, a Jill Stein supporter may be torn between supporting her favorite candidate and voting for a candidate who has a better chance of winning the election.  I'll refer to this as the cognitive burden of expressing your vote.

In this post, I'll address the cognitive burden of three different types of voting:
  1. Plurality voting (i.e., selecting one candidate)
  2. Approval Voting
  3. Ranked-choice voting
OpaVote supports all three of these voting methods if you want to try them out yourself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Organizations Promoting Better Voting Methods

OpaVote is a huge proponent of using better voting methods.  The point of voting is to represent the will of the voters, but the most commonly used voting method (plurality voting) often doesn't do that well.

Especially with online voting, it so easy to implement better voting methods, such as instant runoff voting, single transferable vote, Condorcet, or approval voting.  Many organizations support these kinds of voting reforms, and I'll keep an up to date list in this blog post.  Let me know if I missed a good organization.



United Kingdom

United States

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Guest Post: Rethinking STV Fundamentals

This is a guest post from Kevin Baas.  Kevin is a computer programmer from Milwaukee and he has been thinking deeply about the right way to implement STV elections.  His conclusions sharply disagree with long-standing practices for STV elections so it makes for a very interesting read!

I am still unsure if I personally agree with Kevin's conclusions, but his approach is very novel and worth sharing with others.  Kevin's post is very technical so put on your thinking caps and get ready to dive in.

Rethinking STV Fundamentals

Three errors have plagued the counting of ranked choice ballots for over a century, and here’s how to fix them.

 While learning about how ranked choice ballots are traditionally counted, I discovered three critical flaws in the way everyone does it -- indeed, the way everyone has been doing it for over a century. I would like to share with you how I discovered these flaws and how to fix them. In the end I will outline a new and complete method for counting ranked choice ballots that contains none of these flaws, and consequently produces fairer results than any other system. (With the possible exception of CPO-STV, which it might be tied with.) In addition to explaining the reasoning for these changes, I will provide evidence to support my (admittedly bold) claim that the results are more fair.