Ranked voting in presidential elections

By Lars Næsbye Christensen

Home Forums 06. Article IV – Organization of the Executive Branch Ranked voting in presidential elections

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    I have long thought about the process of choosing the president. In the USA, there are de facto only two pairs of candidates. In a future federal Europe, there might be many more candidates.
    And we could be in a situation where e.g. Candidate 1 gets 34%, and Candidates 2 and 3 gets 33%, but the voters for Candidates 2 and 3 would very much rather prefer one of the others than Candidate 1. Is simple majority then the best option from a democratic perspective?

    So I’m wondering if we might adopt a kind of ranked voting for candidates, inspired by Nicolas de Condorcet (who I think too few people know about).

    One such method is described like this “If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.”

    Of course, one could argue that such detailed rules are not to be put into a constitution, but should be in a law. But we could add ‘using ranked voting’ to the first paragraph, so it would contain “The President and the Vice President are elected, using ranked voting, as a duo by the Citizens of the United States of Europe, which has to that goal one constituency.”


    I see that the revised version now uses a two-round system of elections if no-one wins the first round with a majority. I applaud that we take into account more than a simple majority which could be as small as slightly above 1/candidates.

    But is it a good idea to have two potential presidential election rounds in such a case, costing many resources and delaying a very important decision for the people of the Federation?

    There are several ways of making the presidential election method better with only one round of preferential voting. I strongly suggest we look into options of preferential voting to get as close as possible to the collective center of voter preference without using multiple rounds.

    A modern method is called the Schulze method. It is also based on voters expressing a ranked preference in one round, allows for ties and has been popular in many organisations since its proposal. It is quite interesting to study, if a little heavy on the electoral mathematics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schulze_method

    My main point is: can we get closer to the center of voter preference for the executive without asking them to interact too many times?

    If the main argument against single-round preferential voting is that it is too hard for people to understand in detail, I would like to point to the fact that in the US people gladly debate the local and regional mathematics behind proportional representation as well as the complex rules of American football. Most Danes don’t understand the d’Hondt and Sainte-Laguë methods used in electing the Danish parliament, but accept that there are measures to avoid big regional imbalances.

    The voters should feel confident that the method is as close to hitting the optimal voter preference, and they need only vote according to their wishes. Can we deliver this?

    AvatarHerbert Tombeur

    Hello to all, this ranked voting system seems very interesting to me. For these reasons inter alia: 1° it avoids a compelling need for negotiations between political parties concerning candidacies, behind closed doors of course, yet this system does not exclude such negotiations, 2° it promotes the democratic value of the presidential election, as it assures the decisive role of the voting citizens through its ranked preferences refinement. Thanks a lot for this contribution, mr. Näsbye Christensen.


    Thank you for the kind words, mr. Tombeur.

    I would like to add to my endorsement that under ranked voting it is still very possible to vote in the traditional way: just put one ‘X’ in the box next to the favourite candidate.

    This means that the voter prefers this candidate over all the others, and does not wish to rank them. It is the same as putting a ‘1’ in the box and not specifying numbers 2 and higher.

    It is also possible to make a negative vote: when the voter is strongly against one candidate and would prefer anyone else: they put ‘X’ in all the other boxes. Again this is the same as putting a ‘1’ in those boxes.

    This means: “I rank this candidate lowest, and I do this by ranking all the rest higher’. No other ranking between the rest.

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