I've noticed some unusual voting on an online poll I'm running for work (Ranked choice). It's nothing serious, however as the results are open to everyone (as a matter of transparency). I have had someone confess that they are responsible for the 'unusual' votes. I can't simply 'fudge' the results to remove the unusual votes, in case they are not full responsible.

The votes I find unusual make up roughly half the total votes and are all a single vote for a single candidate. There're other single votes, and I can't discount some of the 'unusual' votes aren't unusual.

Is there a way to minimise these votes 'fairly'?

  • 11
    Why do you think these ballots are suspicious. What were the rules of the election? How was the electorate informed of the rules? What enforcement was there of the rules?
    – James K
    Oct 18 '17 at 16:12
  • 2
    Could you please elaborate on why you suspect those votes of being "faulty"? Just because something is a ranked choice, it's plausible that people will be lazy and only vote for their first preference - heck, I've done that in some SE moderator elections where I knew one candidate well and really didn't care about any others. In other words, unless your polling software prevents such data from being generated, I would not be surprised for this to be a usual behavior.
    – user4012
    Oct 18 '17 at 16:25
  • 2
    If you have proof that a given vote (i.e. linked to a voter ID) is fraudulent, then you might be justified in removing it. However just being told that someone did it isn't really good evidence for that, since a fraudulent confession would suppress genuine votes.
    – origimbo
    Oct 18 '17 at 17:10
  • 2
    If this is a simple case of "ballot stuffing", and you have a "confession", and it is clear that this clearly affects the result, your only option is to reject the result. Stratagies for doing this could be asked at interpersonal skills stack exchange.
    – James K
    Oct 18 '17 at 21:37
  • 2
    This is called en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullet_voting and I think it's completely on-topic for politics.SE
    – endolith
    Oct 19 '17 at 3:47

You either have to accept the result, or completely reject it.

This is distinct from an statistical exercise, in which you would, for example, modify the raw results to match your sample to the population. Even so, you don't "fudge" the results if you want to be taken seriously. Certain results maybe considered to be "outliers" and handled specially. In an election there are no outliers. In an election there are rules, if the rules are followed the result is the result. If the rules are broken your only option is to reject the whole election, and re-run.

A ranked voting is intended to allow for a single vote. That is a rational way of voting. No rules are broken by casting a single vote, so the result is what it is. You might consider how you will educate your electorate next time.

Scotland moved to an STV method for council elections in 2007. You could look at how they coped with the large number of rejected votes in the FPTP Scottish government elections held at the same time.

If you are going to reject the result, be prepared to justify exactly why you are rejecting the result - that would include identifying the issues with the vote that allowed for the poll to be corrupted.

You might look at process in Kenya. The supreme court identified issues in the voting and ruled the election null and void. The consequences of this decision has been political violence, and the withdrawal of the main opposition candidate. Now I'm sure that there won't be anything quite as serious. However, ruling a vote to be invalid will upset people, so you need to have a very clear reason.

  • 5
    +1 - Many voters don't understand ranked choice voting. It might be they voted for their favorite candidate thinking it was first past the post. Oct 18 '17 at 16:23
  • I've extended slightly to look at the particular issue here.
    – James K
    Oct 18 '17 at 16:32

It looks as though Coomb's method would deselect the outliers, as it cares about eliminating the votes with the majority of 'least favourable'. As all the outliers are a single vote, at some point they hold the majority of 'least favourable' and are elimiated. Had they held the initial majority of most favourable they'd have been instantly selected though.

However this fact is likely a weakness of the method, as stated on the wikipedia page.


I think that your best bet may be to show two results. One with the actual results and one with the outliers removed. Then explain why you removed the outliers. Readers can then choose to either agree with your reasons for removal or disagree.

If you run a method that has the side effect of significantly changing just this one method, the natural response would be that you should use a different method. The person can then show a couple of alternatives with the outlier much better represented. Then they are accusing you of bad behavior. Your only real defense would be that you had a good reason to view that as an attempt at cheating. Which then gets us back to showing both results with your reasons for removal.

If you're on the transparent path, I'd just stay on it. It makes you more credible when you claim that you know that someone was trying to vote multiple times.

Another option would be to evaluate the votes with a range voting variant. For each ballot choice, give it one point for each ballot choice it is ranked ahead of. So if you have a ballot that says, Sanders, Clinton, Trump, then Sanders gets 2 points, Clinton gets 1, and Trump gets 0. Now if you have another ballot that says only Trump, Trump gets 0. Sum these numbers across all the ballots. Whichever choice has the most points wins. The problem with this is that it squelches all the single vote ballots.

Or you could eliminate duplicate ballots. Then all the single vote ballots for the same choice will count only once. Of course, this also may squelch some votes by legitimately different people. This would only work if most ballots are distinct and only some combinations are represented. If there's only three choices and all twelve combinations are represented, this wouldn't work.

Regardless, I still think that you should show multiple results. Explain why you did the different systems. Let people reading make up their own mind as to how to handle it.


A few outliers are expected, but if almost half don't look right in a ranked choice poll, you might review the choices you made available.

It may well be that some of the participants feel the choices available are limited to skew the results.

  • This answer got a moderator intervention flag with a custom text in the style of "not an answer because [reasons]". When you think an answer does not properly answer the question, please use the default "not an answer" flag, because with that flag it goes to the review queue and the community can decide whether or not to delete it. You can provide a justification for the flag in the comments to the answer. Moderator attention flags should only be used for answers which are actively harmful and need to be removed by a mod ASAP, not just for answers you don't like.
    – Philipp
    Oct 23 '17 at 15:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .