The single-non-transferrable plurality-winner voting method commonly used in the United States, and the spoiler effect that can produce, helps cement a two-party system that many people (including some leading candidates) in that country are quite unhappy with.

Yet there are plenty of other voting systems, like the Single Transferrable Vote method used to elect moderators on Stack Exchange sites, where voters can honestly indicate their top preference and have an incentive to do so, without the disincentive that this might help their least favored candidate win.

Are there jurisdictions in the US that allocate elected positions (and/or Electoral College electors) based on a system other than a plurality vote where each voter can indicate support for just one candidate?

Note: I am not talking about multi-winner districts, such as when voters select more than one "at large" representative, if those are selected as simply the top n with the highest vote counts.

Also, I'm restricting the scope of the elections to public office, rather than leadership elections which may occur within private organizations.

  • The last part of the question was a duplicate of What legal impediments might there be to alternate voting systems? so I took the liberty to remove it.
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 23:13
  • (STV is a multi-winner system, so not really comparable with single-winner plurality)
    – endolith
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 22:24
  • 2
    @endolith There's some comparability with transferable votes. For example, a voter might want to say "My first choice is Jill Stein so I'm voting for her, but if Stein can't win I'd prefer Clinton over Trump" or "My preferred candidate is Evan McMullin but if he can't win I'd prefer Trump over Clinton." In the single-vote plurality system, both of those voters will likely feel they have to misrepresent their preferences at the polls.
    – WBT
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 4:26
  • @WBT IRV is the single winner version of STV, but there are many other methods that use ranked ballots
    – endolith
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 6:37

4 Answers 4


Are there jurisdictions in the US that allocate elected positions (and/or Electoral College electors) based on a system other than a plurality vote where each voter can indicate support for just one candidate?

There are only two systems in the United States to allocate electoral college electors, and both involve voters picking only one candidate pair (President/Vice-President). One allocates all the electors of the state to the single pair with the most votes statewide. The other allocates two electors to the candidate pair that wins statewide and one elector per congressional district to the district-wide winner. The latter method is only used in Maine and Nebraska.

Louisiana requires a majority of the vote be cast for the winner of non-presidential races. If no one gets a majority, there is a runoff of the top two candidates. This is still single candidate, but it's not plurality. Washington and California use similar systems. See nonpartisan blanket primary for more info.

So there are no federal positions awarded other than by a single candidate vote. There are three states that require a majority winner rather than a plurality winner.

I don't know of a state or local position awarded via any of the ranked methods, but there are many such positions (fifty different states and many more localities).


The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts elects its city council and school board using Single Transferable Vote (Droop quota).

Source: City of Cambridge Election Commission


Are there jurisdictions in the US that allocate elected positions (and/or Electoral College electors) based on a system other than a plurality vote where each voter can indicate support for just one candidate?

Local jurisdictions, yes:

Instant-runoff voting (IRV) has been adopted since 2002 in a number of U.S. cities, with some of these adoptions pending implementation. IRV is now used local elections in

  • San Francisco, California;
  • Oakland, California;
  • Berkeley, California;
  • San Leandro, California;
  • Takoma Park, Maryland;
  • Basalt, Colorado;
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota;
  • Telluride, Colorado;
  • St. Paul, Minnesota; and
  • Portland, Maine.

Starting in 2018, Maine will become the first state to use instant-runoff voting for elections for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and state legislature.

[List formatting by me]

(Note that IRV is also considered to cement a two-party system, so it may not be much of an improvement.)


There are many elections that require a majority, not just a plurality. Just look for any jurisdiction associated with a "run off".

The "Carrollton Farmers Branch Independent School District" (the school board for several suburban areas of Dallas) has "Cumulative Voting": https://www.dallascountyvotes.org/wp-content/uploads/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Cumulative-Voting.pdf

  • Thanks for your answer! If you could elaborate with jurisdictions using runoffs, to the extent it's not just duplicating endolith's answer, or other places using cumulative voting, that could develop into a great answer on this question!
    – WBT
    Commented Mar 31, 2018 at 13:55
  • I was talking about old fashion runoffs. If there are N candidates in the first round of an election, and none of them achieve a majority, all but the top 2 vote-getters fall off, and a "runoff" election is run between the top 2 candidates. This is a pretty common scenario. Some jurisdictions run non-partisan blanket primaries (aka jungle primaries) that are pretty much the same: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonpartisan_blanket_primary Wikipedia has a pretty good write-up on cumulative voting (but without listing which jurisdictions use it): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumulative_voting
    – Flydog57
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:04
  • Yes, I figured as much. The second part is a decent answer to this question, identifying a specific alternative method and one jurisdiction that uses it, with what seems to be an authoritative link backing up the claim. The focus of the question is on seeking specific jurisdictions that use alternative methods (such as runoff or cumulative voting); adding in more details like that in would help make this a great answer.
    – WBT
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:40

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