Our take on FairVote's position regarding STAR Voting

We were excited to learn that FairVote, the nation's leading advocate of Ranked Choice Voting, took a deep look at STAR Voting. We were doubly thrilled when their astute researchers weren't able to come up with even a single viable weakness of the STAR Voting method. Our only true disappointment is that FairVote, to date, has yet to correct the significant inaccuracies in their article, despite repeated asks from the Equal Vote Coalition and others. We believe failure to address these mischaracterizations may have a chilling effect on organizations and individuals considering support of the STAR Voting ballot measure currently under consideration in Oregon.

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Independent Party of Oregon Will Use STAR Voting In 2020 Primary Election, Open to all Independent and Non-Affiliated Voters


In a historic milestone for election reform, Oregon’s largest bloc of voters will use STAR Voting for the Independent Party of Oregon’s May Primary Election, the first time in history the innovative new voting method will be used in a major election.


Eugene, Oregon, April 7, 2020—The Independent Party of Oregon will use STAR Voting in its 2020 May Primary Election, the first time in history that voters will have the opportunity to use the innovative new voting method in a statewide political election, the Equal Vote Coalition announced today. Voting will open on April 28th and close on May 12th, and will feature nominations for statewide offices as well as a Presidential Preference Poll.

“This is truly a milestone in election reform, continuing a long tradition of trailblazing electoral efforts in the state of Oregon,” said Mark Frohnmayer, founder of the Equal Vote Coalition. “The STAR Voting method, invented here in Oregon, offers best-in-class representational accuracy, simplicity, familiarity and expressiveness for voters, as well as transparency of election results. STAR Voting eliminates the spoiler effect and allows voters to honestly express their true preferences without fear of wasting their votes.”

More than one million voters are eligible to vote in the Independent Party primary, including registered members of the Independent Party of Oregon and those not affiliated with any political party. In total, this represents the largest voting bloc in the state, greater than the number of registered voters in either of the state’s major political parties.

"We are thrilled to be the first organization to conduct a binding election using STAR Voting," said Independent Party Co-Chair Rob Harris. "Our hope is to use our election to show voters that how we vote in America is not set in stone.  It is a matter of choice. The current system has led to a divided and dysfunctional government. We would like to show people that other, better, options are available."

In STAR, which stands for “Score Then Automatic Runoff,” voters score each candidate on a familiar 0-5 scale. The winner is the majority favorite between the two highest scoring candidates overall. STAR Voting represents a nationally viable alternative to the traditional “Choose-Only-One” voting method, which election experts have identified as the key factor leading to two party polarization in American politics. Choose-Only-One voting is highly susceptible to the vote-splitting “spoiler effect,” which leads to strategic “lesser evil” voting and magnifies the influence of money in the political process. 

STAR Voting continues a long tradition of Oregon firsts in election reform. In 1998, Oregon pioneered Vote-by-Mail, which was followed by “Motor Voter” automatic voter registration in 2016. Oregon now consistently ranks as a national leader in voter turnout. In 1902 Oregon was the first state in the country to implement a ballot initiative and referendum process, known then as “The Oregon System,” which was widely adopted across the country.

Media Contact:

Jonathan Miller
[email protected]


About the Equal Vote Coalition - 

The Equal Vote Coalition is a nonpartisan organization and registered 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to promoting true equality in the vote itself. It’s work centers around electoral research and voting reform, as well as community education and coalition building to promote better elections, and a more equitable and representative political discourse. 




Is Proportional Representation an option with STAR Voting?


What is Proportional Representation?:
Proportional Representation is a class of multi-winner voting designed to elect a candidates in proportion to the amount of support that they have in the electorate.

For example, if there were five seats available on a council, and if a faction had the support of 1/5 of the voters, their candidate would be able to win one out of the five available seats. 

Proportional Representation is common all around the world, especially in countries that have a parliamentary system, and proportional representation elections can be achieved using any kind of ballot, including the 5 star ballot. 


What is Proportional STAR Voting?:
Proportional STAR voting
 uses the same ballot as single-winner STAR and like single-winner STAR, the tabulation better incentivizes honest and expressive voting, doesn't waste votes, and is a lot simpler than many other proportional voting methods currently in use. 

Proportional STAR pairs well with single-winner STAR Voting and basic multi-winner STAR Voting, so voters can have accurate representative elections for single-winner, basic multi-winner elections , and proportional representation races using the same consistent and user friendly ballot. 

Learn more about Proportional STAR voting here.



From the STAR Voting Lane County Campaign

Lane County petitioners celebrate historic first campaign to institute STAR Voting

Eugene, OR November 7, 2018 ​​Campaign organizers and volunteers gathered Tuesday night to watch the election returns roll in for the world’s first campaign to institute STAR Voting in public elections. STAR Voting would have replaced Lane County’s “Top Two” primary/general election system with a single November election using STAR Voting. STAR Voting allows voters to support candidates on a 0-5 scale, and elects the majority favorite between the two top-scoring candidates. Although the final tally was 42.0% in favor and 46.4% opposed, with 11.6% abstaining, campaign supporters were jubilant.

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Response to FairVote Article on STAR Voting

We were encouraged when we heard that FairVote was updating its online article on STAR Voting in light of concerns from the Equal Vote Coalition and a number of leaders in the electoral reform community. However, in reading the updated article (July 2018) we found it disappointing. They dropped some problematic assertions while retaining others, but overall it fails to address the central concerns raised against it in the first place.

The article is likely to deter non-specialists from supporting STAR Voting, even though the arguments do not hold up to critical scrutiny. Our response to the original article is still available and goes into great detail, but here we will limit ourselves to summarizing three fundamental problems with their article.

Problems in FairVote’s Critique

1. Puzzling recommendation. FairVote writes:

“It is difficult to know for sure whether STAR voting can break this tendency of [tactical voting in] scoring voting methods. It’s lack of track record in meaningfully contested elections where voters care about the results, candidates run serious campaigns, and the results are publicly revealed afterwards in a way that might affect future tactics [leaves us with insufficient data].”

The logical conclusion from the above quotation is that STAR Voting should be tested in real public elections in order to confirm or disprove FairVote’s tactical voting concerns. Local municipal and county elections are the venues where such conditions would apply and provide the data to determine what tactical voting concerns, if any, play out in the real world. In spite of this, FairVote concludes that STAR Voting should build a track record of use in private associations where none of their criteria will be met nor the pertinent data gathered.

2. Failure to address rebuttals of their “tactical voting” argument. FairVote’s principal argument against STAR Voting is a hypothetical example of how voters might use tactical voting. We have repeatedly debunked this argument, not only in our response to their article but in earlier email exchanges, yet both their original and revised articles repeat this flawed line of reasoning.

Their argument is that voters might vote tactically to keep a strong challenger to their favorite candidate out of the automatic runoff by giving candidates they like less a higher score than the challenger. FairVote relies on two examples to illustrate this point, neither of which involve STAR Voting.

STAR Voting’s automatic runoff feature makes this tactic very risky – more likely to give such voters a worse outcome than if they had voted according to their true preferences. The idea that voters would employ a complex and risky strategy that is not likely to benefit them on a wide scale is contrary to both common sense and FairVote's own data. (This data has shown that voters’ desire to vote honestly often overcomes tactical considerations even when an honest vote actually could give them a worse outcome, as can happen with Ranked Choice Voting.)

3. Biased use of criteria for evaluation. Election scientists evaluate voting methods against a wide variety of criteria, some of which conflict with each other. Yet FairVote bases its assessment of STAR Voting primarily on a single criterion – Later No Harm – which is about the method’s incentives or disincentives to give honest support to candidates beyond a voter’s favorite.

We find it particularly conspicuous that FairVote doesn't mention that Later No Harm is only one half of a paradoxical set of important criteria. The second criterion in that pair is Favorite Betrayal, which considers whether or not it is safe to fully support your favorite candidate in the first place. FairVote’s preferred voting method, Ranked Choice Voting, fails Favorite Betrayal in predictable ways. STAR Voting deliberately balances the two critical criteria of Later No Harm and Favorite Betrayal to minimize the effects of each.

"Unfortunately, satisfying both criteria is impossible without introducing other undesirable qualities to the voting system… Whether they’ve realized it or not, folks who tout Later No Harm as the holy grail of voting systems criteria are actually saying that The Spoiler Effect is not a problem they think is important to fix." (Dempsey, “A Farewell to Pass/Fail: Why We Ditched Later No Harm.”)

Choosing to satisfy Later-No-Harm over Favorite Betrayal opens the door to the same pitfalls we are trying to solve in our current voting system: “Lesser-Evil” voting and “Spoiler” problems in  a system plagued by vote splitting.

4. Any many more… This failure to address counter-arguments persists throughout their article. You can find our full point-by-point analysis of their original article here.


We respect the role FairVote has played in leading the charge on voting method reform in the United States. In many ways they have laid the foundation for the current renaissance in election reform. However, FairVote's recent article stands in contrast to their stated claim to be neutral on STAR Voting and supportive of better voting methods in general. Rather, FairVote's track record shows a pattern of working over decades against voting method reforms other than Ranked Choice Voting.

We applaud them for making a huge step in the right direction by taking down a number of these "attack" articles recently, but urge further action. STAR Voting was created as a hybrid of features from both Ranked Choice and Score Voting to address criticisms of each while maintaining their benefits. As a win/win method, we hope that STAR Voting can help unite the disparate camps of the voting reform movement.

As this is one the most critical issues of our times, we need to work together to succeed.



STAR Voting gets its first field trial, two campaigns... and a new name!

If my Google News Alerts are a valid indicator, public interest in election process reform has seen a huge increase since the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. We're witnessing this directly here in Oregon as we work to bring STAR Voting* (SRV) to public elections for the first time. The purpose of STAR is to finally break the trade-offs inherent in prior proposals for single-winner elections and enable accurate representative elections that let voters honestly express their opinions on the field of candidates in every vote.

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STAR Voting - First Use in a Public Poll!

Portland Forward graciously allowed us to invite ourselves to officiate the world's first public poll using STAR Voting* this last weekend at their annual SPRING THING!!!. SPRING THING!!!'s purpose is to "bring together a diverse and multi-generational group of citizens who are invested in leaving this city better than we found it, to empower citizen voices, and make change happen." What better place to give true democracy a test-drive?

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STAR Voting Election Calculator

Due to recent changes in the Google API, the script described on this page is currently raising an error. Our software team is working on resolving the problem asap. We apologize for any inconvenience. In the meantime, if you prefer to use Google Forms to host your election you can still do so, you'll just need to tally the votes by hand.


STAR Voting now has it's own web app for running simple and functional STAR votes. Give it a try on


With Google Forms it's also fairly easy to set up and run your own STAR Voting* elections with additional security features, by copying and pasting in a simple script.  

This post is a step-by-step guide that shows how to do that.

* Some images in this post say SRV, which reflects the original working name for STAR Voting. SRV stands for Score Runoff Voting. STAR Voting stands for Score Then Automatic Runoff.

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The Relaxed Majority Criterion

A voting system satisfies the Relaxed Majority Criterion if a majority faction of voters can express a non-zero "maximum support - 1" to a second choice candidate, and still guarantee that the majority faction's "maximum supported" first choice wins.

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Is this about the Electoral College?

The mission of Equal.Vote is embedded in our name. Even though our initial focus is on the mechanics of the vote itself, when folks keep asking us, "Is this about the Electoral College?", we have to say yes to that too.

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