Saturday, August 31, 2019

Why we don't support equal rankings in RCV elections

OpaVote specializes in online elections with ranked-choice voting. With ranked-choice voting, you can select your first choice, your second choice, and so forth.

You could imagine that a voter might want to give two candidates the same ranking. For example, using the ballot example here, a voter might want to rank both Wonder Woman and Superman first and rank Black Panther second.

Our user interface does not allow voters to specify equal rankings like this. We occasionally get asked to allow equal rankings in OpaVote, and in this blog post we explain why we won't do so. The fundamental reason is a simple cost-benefit tradeoff.

Benefits of Equal Rankings

The benefit of allowing equal rankings is that the voter has increased ability to express his or her preferences about the candidates.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Elections where a winning candidate withdraws

Online elections don't always go according to plan... For example, during an election, it is possible that a candidate may decide that she is no longer able or no longer willing to assume the duties of the position being elected. We describe this as a candidate "withdrawing" from the election. In this post, we explain how  to handle withdrawn candidates with OpaVote.

Removing a Candidate and Recounting Votes

Let's say that you are the manager of an OpaVote Election. Voting is complete and you have election results. Before you announce the results you learn that one of the winners has withdrawn. OpaVote allows you to remove the withdrawn candidate and recount the votes.

The process works as follows:

  1. Download the ballots from the Election. We have a "Download Ballots" button on the results page.
  2. Create an OpaVote Count. This is one the three options from our management console.
  3. Upload the ballots you just downloaded into the OpaVote Count with the "Upload Ballots" button.
  4. Use the "Withdraw Candidates" button to remove the withdrawn candidate (you can also withdraw more than one if you need to).
  5. Count the ballots using your preferred counting method.
We will then count the ballots as if the withdrawn candidate had not been on the ballots at all.  For example, if the withdrawn candidate was ranked first on a ballot, that ranking will be removed, and the second-ranked candidate will become the first-ranked candidate.

Note that you may need to pay an additional fee for the Count. Though if you do, it is often significantly less than the cost of the Election since the fee is based on the number of votes received and not the total number of voters.

Rerun the Election?

Another thing to consider is whether you should rerun the entire election. For example, suppose there were three candidates competing for a position, you ran the election using plurality or checkbox voting, and the winner withdraws from the election.

You could just elect the person who came in second, but this does not seem fair because you are not taking into account the votes of everyone who voted for the withdrawn candidate. The best option in this situation is to rerun the election.

With ranked-choice voting, you probably do not need to rerun the election, because everyone who voted for the withdrawn candidate will have their votes counted for their second choices.