Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As we embrace the festive spirit with traditional Irish activities, why not delve into something quintessentially Irish that goes beyond corned beef and cabbage? Let’s explore Ireland’s proportional ranked-choice voting (RCV) system.

What is Proportional Ranked-Choice Voting?

You’re likely familiar with the standard RCV method (here’s a quick reminder), where voters rank candidates, and the least popular are eliminated, transferring votes until one candidate secures a majority. But Ireland’s approach is different—it’s about electing multiple representatives proportionally.

How Does It Work?

Imagine an election for three seats: if 66% of voters prefer purple candidates and 33% favor orange ones, we’d expect two purple and one orange to win. Proportional RCV achieves this by lowering the winning threshold to 25% to elect three officials [1], ensuring a fair representation of voter preferences.

Ireland’s Experience:

All Irish elections to the Dáil Éireann (parliament) use this system. If RCV-enabling legislation is adopted in NJ, this method will apply to our multi-seat local elections, including school boards and at-large positions.

Why Consider Proportional RCV?

  • Enhanced Representation: A greater percentage of voters will see their views reflected in elected officials.
  • Increased Competition: Elections become more dynamic and engaging.

Let’s see the system in action.

As election day approaches, you notice two changes immediately. Candidates are asking not just for your vote, but also for you to put them 1st on your ballot. Parties are also running multiple candidates and campaigning to ensure that you rank all of their candidates highly.


On election day, you rank your candidates in order of preference. In Ireland, you can rank as many or as few as you like. When your ballot is counted, it will be sorted into who you marked as first.


If your favorite doesn’t have enough votes to win, your vote is transferred to your next favorite candidate, until 3 candidates acquire enough votes to win.

The initial count:

Candidates start to get eliminated and their votes get transferred:

We have our three winners:

If you want to learn more about how Proportional RCV elections work in Ireland:

[1] In a traditional single-winner RCV election, you need 1/(1 winner + 1) = 50% of the vote. In a proportional RCV election, you need 1/(3 winners + 1) = 25% of the vote. 


Jack Cunningham


Central Functions Team Lead for Voter Choice NJ