Machine counting is the fastest way to count RCV elections. Machine count procedures for ranked choice voting elections can vary greatly based on the capabilities of the voting machines involved in that election, the laws in the place holding that ranked choice voting election, and how many different voting precincts are involved in the election. Some machines, like Hart’s Verity system and Unisyn’s OpenElect are one-push machines: the machines transmit the complete rankings from each voter to a central location once voting is done for the day. The ranked choice voting election will be fully counted out at that central location by a computer application, once all ranking data has been collected.
Other systems, like ES&S’s DS 200, require a poll worker to export the ranked choice voting data to a memory card or flash drive, which will then be transported to a central location where one computer collects all data on the election. A third party counting application then aggregates all the election data to determine the election result.
See the RCV Resource Center’s page on Election Machines for more information on how certain machines process RCV elections. Stay tuned to this space, as well, for a brief best practices report on running RCV elections with an election machine.
Minneapolis, Minnesota uses ES&S DS200s for their ranked choice voting elections, like so:
Voters scan in their ranked choice voting ballots to the DS200
The DS200 scans and stores voters’ rankings and votes for all races in a file called a “cast vote record”
At the close of voting, the election judge:
Prints out at least three physical copies of the cast vote record (for public display, for storage, and for reporting to the central counting location)
Using the internet, sends the cast vote record directly from the DS200 to a central counting location, to count up the complete ranked choice voting election
The ranked choice voting election is tabulated at a central location after all complete cast vote records have been received, using a third party application
Many places running ranked choice voting elections count those elections by hand. While the counting process is more complicated and time consuming than the counting for a simple plurality election, it is still easily done by hand and is highlighted by cybersecurity experts as a more transparent counting process than machine counting. In general, election judges/clerks start with sorting out ballots by what candidate is ranked first on those ballots, then further sort those by second, third, and later rankings. Telluride, Colorado’s hand count procedures are a good example of best practices for hand counting ranked choice voting elections. There is a link to them below. Takoma Park has also used hand counting for RCV in the past, their procedures are available below as well. Ireland and Northern Ireland hand count their nationwide single- and multi-winner RCV elections, and Australia hand counts their single-winner RCV elections.
Principles and Guidelines Report (Results Presentation Guidelines begin on page 29)