Ranked Choice Voting: Saving Money While Improving Elections

June 28, 2018. The New York City Charter Review Commission is currently reviewing several proposals for changes to the charter. The proposal for ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting, has garnered a good deal of enthusiasm around the city, but some questions have been raised about what the cost of such a system might be. The Fiscal Policy Institute examined this question, and our conclusion is that there would be a net savings, not a cost, in moving to ranked choice voting.

Under ranked choice, voters would use the same voting machines currently in use, but they would mark on a single ballot not only their first choice among candidates for an office, but also their second and third choice. Since the new system would use the same machines, the only significant investments needed for the mechanics of the election would be one-time costs of perhaps $100,000 to $500,000 in computer programming and other minor changes. On the other side of the ledger, we estimate a savings of roughly $11 million in public money and $2 million in private money in every election cycle that avoids the need for a runoff election—a recurring savings.

Ranked choice voting is attractive because it allows voters to more fully express their preferences, and it provides very real incentives for candidates to engage in less negative campaigning and make a more positive appeal to a broader range of voters.

To read more about our analysis and conclusions, please click here.