In a Round Robin tournament, each contestant faces off against each other contestant, and the one who wins the most matches wins the tournament. This is essentially how Ranked Robin works, but by using ranked ballots, the whole tournament can happen all at once.
For voters or jurisdictions who are sold on the idea of ranked ballots, we recommend Ranked Robin. Ranked Robin is a top-tier method for tallying ranked ballots that empowers voters to vote their conscience, doesn't waste votes, and delivers accurate, representative results.
Upgrading Ranked Voting:
Most of the jurisdictions in the world who are using alternative voting methods today are using ranked ballot systems, and most voters who hear about ranked voting assume that the ballots are counted as in Ranked Robin; i.e. all the rankings are counted, and the candidate who is preferred overall wins.
In fact, almost all jurisdictions that use ranked ballots actually tally them with the much more convoluted Ranked Choice Voting method instead. With Ranked Choice Voting, ballots are tallied in rounds, and in each round, only voter's first choice (or top remaining choice) is counted. Candidates are eliminated in rounds, transferring votes to voters’ next choices, if possible. Some votes inevitably are unable to transfer, and the election is called when one candidate has a majority of ballots that are still in play. In most competitive elections, there will be many voters whose ballots are not able to be counted in the deciding round, even if their votes could have made a difference. These are called "exhausted ballots." Ranked Choice Voting elections are often oversold with claims that it's safe to vote for your honest favorite, that your vote won't be wasted, and that if your favorite is eliminated, your next choice will be counted. These claims are all objectively false.
In short, Ranked Choice Voting ignores relevant ballot data, which can skew the results in competitive races. Some voters whose favorites can't win will have their next choice counted. Some won't. This is fundamentally unfair and we can do better!
The academic community in voting science has long been calling for jurisdictions which use ranked ballots to upgrade from RCV to a better method, and something in the Condorcet family of voting methods (there are many variations) that uses the same ranked ballot is a logical choice. For this reason, we present Ranked Robin.
In Ranked Robin, voters rank candidates in order of preference. Voters may rank multiple candidates equally, and candidates left blank are ranked last.
Ranked Robin compares candidates in 1-on-1 match-ups. A candidate wins a match-up if they are ranked higher than their opponent by more voters. The candidate who wins the most match-ups is elected the winner.
If multiple candidates tie for the greatest number of match-up wins, elect the tied candidate with the best average ranking.
Carmen won the most match-ups against other candidates, so she is elected the winner.
We can also look at Carmen's win margins to see how she fared in each of her match-ups.
Ranked Robin Advantages:
- Simple. Ranked Robin allows voters to rank candidates however they like. All rankings are counted, and the candidate preferred over the most others wins. This makes Ranked Robin easy for voters and easy to understand conceptually. The fact that all rankings are always counted makes it significantly easier to tally and audit for election officials than Ranked Choice Voting, which requires waiting for all ballots to be collected before determining which ranks to count.
- Expressive. Allowing voters to give equal rankings helps voters express a more nuanced opinion and reduces cognitive load compared to Ranked Choice Voting. Additionally, voters will still be able to assign a rank to every candidate even if there are more candidates than available ranks on the ballot.
- Empowers Honesty. Candidates are compared 1-on-1, which eliminates vote-splitting. This means voters can rest assured that it's best to rank candidates honestly and there’s no need to rank a "lesser-evil" candidate higher than they'd like. The best strategy is honesty.
- Accurate. Ranked Robin is a type of Condorcet voting, a class of voting methods that always elect the most preferred candidate if one exists. Condorcet has become a key metric for measuring voting method accuracy for ranked methods. Peer review and other study consistently backs up claims made by Condorcet advocates. While there are several highly accurate Condorcet methods, statistical modeling has demonstrated that despite its relative simplicity, Ranked Robin’s accuracy is top tier.
- Equal. Ranked Robin eliminates vote-splitting and ensures an equally powerful vote for each and every voter by allowing voters to rank candidates freely and then counting all voters' rankings. There are no wasted votes, and whether or not your favorite can win, your vote will make a difference.
- Secure. Unlike Ranked Choice Voting, Ranked Robin is batch summable, allowing ballots and ballot data to be tallied and audited at the local level. This is a vital component of election security, especially in jurisdictions that run geographically-spread or high-profile elections.
- No more primaries. Ranked Robin is highly accurate even in races with a large number of candidates, which means that it can be used without a primary election if desired. This can save taxpayers, candidates, and voters the headaches and expense that comes with holding two separate elections each cycle.
Ranked Robin Disadvantages:
- A ranked ballot doesn't allow voters to express their level of support; a 2nd choice ranking could be almost as good as a voter’s favorite or almost as bad as their last choice. This also makes it less straight-forward to look at the election results see how much support a candidate had overall, especially compared to methods like STAR Voting and Approval Voting.
- While the concept of electing the candidate who was preferred over the most others is quite simple, the process for efficiently tabulating Ranked Robin is less so, making hand counts more complex to conduct than with some other voting methods (though still viable). Advances in vote tabulation in recent decades now make methods like Ranked Robin viable for scaled elections.
- Despite their popularity in academia, Condorcet methods like Ranked Robin historically haven't had much traction toward adoption for US elections, even though all of them test great in terms of outcomes and incentivizing honest voting. The main barrier, in our opinion, is the lack of consensus around which Condorcet method to promote, overblown concerns around which tie-breaking protocols are best, and confusion caused by analysis paralysis from comparing them. Ranked Robin offers a compelling option which draws on the best aspects of previous approaches with a focus on simplicity and transparency for real world adoption. Ranked Pairs, Smith-Minimax, and many other Condorcet methods are great too.
- Because of the way "votes" are often legally defined, Ranked Robin (and Ranked Choice Voting) are less likely to be compatible with existing election law than methods like STAR Voting where each voter's vote ultimately goes to one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins.
The case for Ranked Robin:
Ranked Robin is Condorcet voting designed with a focus on keeping it simple and transparent for the general public and keeping it practical for real world elections. Condorcet methods, originally invented in the 13th century, have long been a major interest of voting reform enthusiasts in part because of their consistency in delivering accurate results and resistance against strategic voting. However, a few factors have prevented the Condorcet movement from coalescing around a viable proposal. Now, with growing evidence of the many issues with Ranked Choice Voting, which has dominated voting reform for the last century, there is a renewed need for a ranked method that comprehensively addresses these concerns and can produce the great results voters demand.
Ranked Robin is a viable upgrade that Ranked Choice Voting advocates can adopt without dramatically altering their pitch. Ranked Robin confidently delivers on the many claims often falsely made about Ranked Choice Voting while sticking with the ranked ballot they’re familiar with.
You can host elections using Condorcet voting online with the Condorcet Internet Voting Service. Though they don't offer Ranked Robin specifically at this time, the vast majority of elections will give the same results regardless of which Condorcet method you use.