Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is ranked choice voting?

Ranked choice voting (also called "instant runoff voting") is a simple change that can have a big impact. It makes democracy more fair and functional for everyone. With ranked choice voting, voters have the option to rank candidates in order of preference: one, two, three, and so forth.

If your vote cannot help your top choice win, your vote counts for your next choice.

If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices in a race, that candidate wins, just like in our present-day elections. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an "instant runoff." The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until there’s a majority winner or a candidate won with more than half of the vote.

How does ranked choice voting work?
Ranked choice voting acts like a series of runoff elections. If any candidate receives a majority of the first choice rankings, that candidate is elected. If not, the last place candidate is defeated, just as in a runoff election, and all ballots are counted again, but this time each ballot cast for the defeated candidate counts for the next-choice candidate listed on each of those ballots. This process of eliminating the last place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote. 

Since Minneapolis is a city similar to KC that uses RCV, see the information on their web page, which also shows types of public education the city puts on their website:

Who will be elected in Kansas City using ranked choice voting?
RCV would be used to elect the mayor and city council members.

How is this different from what Kansas City currently uses for local elections?
Currently, Kansas City uses a two-round runoff system to elect its local officeholders. A primary is held in February, followed by the general election between the top two finishers in March. This system of two separate elections costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and often leads to extremely low voter turnout – only 14% in the April 2023 primary. With RCV, candidates win by gaining a majority of voter support, but RCV produces final results in a single election, eliminating the need for the second election.

Could using ranked choice voting boost voter turnout?

Yes. With the current system, voter participation is usually very low: April 2023 primary only 14% of registered voters in Kansas City and Clay county and 15% in Platte county participated.   2019 had nearly 20% .   With RCV, voters, candidates, and organizations can focus all their resources and efforts on a single election, thereby maximizing voter participation. Having one election instead of two prevents voter fatigue that contributes to low turnout.

What are the cost savings?
Ranked choice voting combines the primary and runoff elections into one election, getting rid of the high costs of administering the second election. With ranked choice voting, all these unnecessary costs for a second election will be saved.  There will be expenses with training of election workers and of course voter education. How much the voter education will cost is up to how much the Council decides to spend on it. Presumably it will be much more during the first cycle and less in subsequent election cycles.

But the source of the funds is readily available: since we only need one election with RCV and can skip the second election, that’s over $600,000 we save every four years. That figure comes from Brian Boyd, Finance Manager of the Kansas City Missouri Election Board, who told me by phone in January 2021 that the April 2019 election was about $622,000, and the June 2019 election was about $617,000. The first one was a bit more expensive because of including school board elections, which we would probably still do on that ballot, but the June election is the expense that would be saved.

How can we bring RCV to Kansas City?
To bring RCV to Kansas City, voters need to approve an amendment to the City Charter. 

But first this amendment has to be placed on the ballot, which requires either approval by a majority of the KC City Council, OR a state wide voter initiative receiving signatures from 10 percent of registered voters. 

Currently the  City Charter Review commission is reviewing RCV and taking testimony from citizens.

Is ranked choice voting too confusing for voters?
Not at all. Many studies have examined if RCV elections used in various jurisdictions were confusing for voters.  All the studies have found that voters handle ranking their ballots with ease.  

92%of voters in Minneapolis, which has used RCV since 2009, find it “simple.

San Francisco State University’s Public Research Institute has conducted two exit poll studies and found that 87% of those who voted in San Francisco’s RCV elections felt they understood RCV – results that cut across all ethnic, age and gender lines.   60% of voters used all three of their rankings, and 61% preferred RCV over San Francisco’s old two round runoff system. 

The results undoubtedly were so positive because the role for voters is very simple—just rank as many of your favorite candidates as you wish, 1, 2, 3. It’s like going to Baskin Robbins 31 flavors of ice cream, and picking your top three flavors. We are used to ranking things all the time, from our favorite sports teams to our favorite videos and foods, so ranking candidates is easy.  

Go to :  for more stats.

Is RCV a fair and easy system for voters protected under the Voting Rights Act?
Yes. According to the San Francisco State studies, 87% of all voters said that they understood RCV. African Americans, Latinos, and Asians were the most likely groups to rank three candidates (the maximum possible). Latinos were most likely to say that ranking was easy or very easy (58%), and Latino voters had the smallest percentage of voters indicating some lack of understanding of the system, only 10%, and only 16% of African-Americans. Spanish first-language speakers had the smallest percentage of voters indicating some lack of understanding, only 9% versus 12% for English speakers. Voters whose first language was Spanish were considerably more likely than others to say that ranking candidates was easy or very easy, with almost two-thirds giving that response. Another exit poll by the Asian Law Caucus found that Asians overwhelmingly favored RCV.

Can RCV have an impact on the awful mudslinging and negative campaigning?
Yes. In recent KC elections, voters have been bombarded with nasty “hit” pieces, personal attacks and TV ads telling them the worst about their political leaders. In contrast, RCV discourages such mudslinging because candidates know they may need the second or third ranking from other candidates’ supporters to win. The result is a major shift in traditional campaign strategy. Instead of mudslinging, candidates have an incentive to run civil, issues-based campaigns and find common ground. Covering San Francisco’s RCV elections, one New York Times headline read: "New Runoff System in San Francisco Has the Rival Candidates Cooperating." Such coalition-building is certain to benefit the eventual winner when governing.

Will RCV prevent spoilers and vote-splitting?
Yes. With the current system, multiple candidates from the same constituency can “split” the vote, resulting in those candidates cancelling each other out.  RCV’s ranked ballots allow voters to rank their first, second and third choices and to participate in coalitions among like-minded candidates, avoiding such vote-splitting.

What happens if a person only selects one choice?

Not a problem.     Voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they wish.  There will normally be three to five rankings available – even with more candidates, it gets too unwieldy with more. 

Your ballot initially counts only for your top choice, no matter how many other candidates you ranked.   If someone could rank up to five but only likes three candidates, they can rank just three.  If they only like one – or want to stick to the habit of only voting for one – they can rank just one candidate (also known as “bullet voting”) which means that if your first choice is eliminated, your ballot becomes “inactive” or “exhausted” and does not count in future rounds. 

Does the election board have the equipment necessary to deploy RCV? 


Given the first RCV election for Kansas City would be in 2027, it’s likely that software upgrades to allow RCV would already be in place – and certainly will be if RCV is known to be coming. 

Are election boards/professionals supportive of the change? 

 Platte County Director Chris Hershey is supportive,  the others are not.   They’ve have concerns about implementation and directions.  They currently use  Section 115 of Missouri statutes  and they’d want something similar by way of instructions. That would be in the enabling legislation that the new Council would have to pass, as called for by the city charter amendment.   We would get the model legislation for that from other cities and from one of the non-profits dedicated to helping implement RCV.  We also have a Missouri election attorney, Angela Gabel, with much implementation experience in other states. 

 We’re not having to invent this nor design it on the fly. Over 50 cities and over 60 jurisdictions (including two states) are using this, so we’ll be relying on experienced organizations.

If we are going to contract with a third party, what does that cost and what’s the process/timeline to allocate those funds? How is the vendor selected?

 We don’t need to contract with a third party. We already have the voter machines, as documented above, and those companies have the software that goes with their machines. Tabulation software is also available and free.

Will other election authorities in our immediate region adopt the same policy? If yes, will the same or different vendors be used? Will equipment need to be purchased? What is the budgeting/vendor selection process? If no, how does that impact public trust in the process, if at all? 

All of the election authorities in our immediate area also have election machines that can use RCV. The machines that can’t are in St. Louis and some other out-state counties not in our vicinity. Basically, all relatively new machines can handle it; only the old machines don’t have the capability.

 So no, new equipment won't need to be purchased. They might need software upgrades. And of course like us they’ll need election worker training and voter education.


As a different issue, many have already raised the issue that the charter review timeline is very compressed. Will we be able to responsibly educate the public about RCV in this amount of time? 

 It is indeed quite a rush job. Commissioners decided at the meeting last night that they’re deciding on May 16 whether they’ll abide by the rush job, with the outgoing Council deciding what goes on the ballot in August, or whether they’ll extend things and let the new Council vote on it to go on the November 7 ballot.

 We have a lot of experience with educating the public, mainly in person and one by one, and we find that people tend to pick up on it fairly quickly. For more massive public education, using mailers, tv spots, and social media as well as the one-on-one technique we’ve been using so far, I think education will work. RCV normally passes by large margins in cities; last November, six cities had it on the ballot, all passed it, and the lowest amount it passed by was 56%.

Also, I’ve heard that minority communities stand to gain the most. Have minority communities been adequately engaged and educated about the topic? Which minority communities and through what medium have they been engaged to date? What kind of feedback have you gotten from minority communities? 

 The current Black candidates who are strong supporters of RCV are: Jenay Manley, Melissa Robinson, and Michael Kelley.  Manley has an excellent video explaining it briefly at the top of our web page on candidate stances.

 We’ve had tables at several MLK Day events and at the Midwest Soul Veg Fest for the past two years.  Additionally, all the work we do, such as leafleting as people come out of election polls, will include outreach into minority communities when the polls are in those communities. Going to candidate forums also included forums in minority communities.

What can I do to help?
1. Call or write your Councilmember and Mayor Quinton Lucas. Tell our leaders to do their part to bring RCV to KC.
2. Spread the word. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues about RCV. When people understand how RCV works, they tend to support it. Other effective means are to get organizations you are a part of to support RCV, or write letters to the editor to local papers and newsletters.
3. Volunteer your time. RCV will NOT be adopted in KC without your help. Please contact us at 816-753-2057 (Rachel MacNair) or