How Will My Ranked Choice Voting Ballot Be Counted

What to Expect on Election Night

What County Commissioner contest results will we see ON election night?

The Election Office will release ONLY the first choice ranking results for County Commissioner after 8:00 pm on election night. These unofficial first choice ranking results will be updated along with the other contest results including the final Unofficial Election Night results posting. We cannot announce a tentative winner before all ballots are received and tallied.  This would include Benton County ballots returned in other Oregon counties and ballots that are resolved within the 14-day ballot challenge/resolution period. Following the challenge period, the county must certify the election results no later than the 20th day after the election date. 

If the race is not close, we may have a good idea who likely won on election night. This is not a big difference compared to previous elections. How many times have we gone to bed on election night thinking a particular candidate or ballot measure was winning in a close race, only to find after all ballots are counted that the outcome had changed?  Ranked Choice Voting results are no different. If the race is close, final determination will depend on the counting of ballots returned in another Oregon county, as well as, challenged and provisional ballots all being included in the final contest results.

What County Commissioner contest results will we see AFTER election night?

After the 14-day challenge period has past and all accepted ballots are tallied, if a candidate listed on the ballot or Write-In candidate receives more than half of the first-choice votes cast (50% + plus one), that candidate will be announced as the unofficial winner.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, vote tallies will continue. The candidate with the fewest first choice votes is defeated. Next, the votes cast for the defeated candidate, are then recast, for the next choice remaining candidate selected on those ballots; or until the vote is nullified, if no subsequent choice is for a remaining candidate.

This process continues until a candidate has received more than half of the votes cast or only two candidates remain. If two candidates remain, the candidate with the most votes is declared the unofficial winner.  The official winner will only be declared when the results are certified.

Round-by-Round Vote Totals

A report containing round-by-round contest results for the County Commission positions will be displayed on www.co.benton.or.us/elections and BentonBetterBallot.com after the challenge period has past and the returns are certified.

Click here for an animated video that explains Ranked Choice Voting and the round-by-round vote tally process.

When will the final CERTIFIED election results be available?

Benton County can only certify election results after the 14-day ballot challenge/resolution period has past and no later than the 20th day following the election.

Affected Contests

In order to qualify, as a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) contest, a County Office must have a minimum of three candidates nominated for the General Election. Currently, only the partisan Benton County Commissioner positions have the potential to meet this qualification. The nonpartisan Benton County Sheriff contest nominates no more than two candidates in the Primary Election for the General Election ballot in accordance with ORS 249.091.

Number of Rankings per Qualified Contest

When a Benton County Commission contest qualifies for RCV, with three or more candidates nominated, the County Clerk shall print the contest on the General Election ballot in a manner that will allow voters to rank their top three candidate choices. Each voter shall have the opportunity to indicate their First, Second and Third choice candidates in the contest. Voters will also be provided an opportunity for one Write-In in the ranked contest.

Definitions for Ranked Choice Voting

  • Tallied Vote – When the voter selects a candidate that has not been eliminated, without over voting the ranking to be counted, the vote is cast and tallied for that candidate.
  • Remaining Candidate – A candidate that has NOT been defeated.
  • Defeated Candidate – A candidate that HAS been eliminated.
  • Skipped Ranking – When a voter chooses to NOT select a candidate whose name is printed on the ballot or write-in a candidate name in one or more of the available rankings.
  • Over Vote – When the voter selects more than one candidate as their first choice or any subsequent choice that is to be counted, the vote is nullified and tallied as an over vote.
  • Under Vote – When voter skips all rankings, with no first, second or third choice candidate or write-in selected, the vote is nullified and tallied as an under vote.
  • Exhausted Vote – When the first, second and third choice selections made by the voter in the RCV contest have been eliminated, the vote is nullified and tallied as exhausted.
  • Nullified Vote – Over Votes, Under Votes and Exhausted Votes are considered nullified RCV votes and are not utilized to determine the 50% plus one number of votes needed to win.

Tally of Votes for Ranked Choice Voting Contests

Initially, the first choice votes in the ranked choice contest are tallied. If a candidate receives more than half of the first-choice votes cast (50% plus one), that candidate wins. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is defeated.

Next, the votes that had been cast for the defeated candidate are then recast for the next choice remaining candidate selected on those ballots; or until the vote is nullified, if no subsequent choice is for a remaining candidate.

This process continues until a candidate has received more than half of the votes cast or only two candidates remain. If two candidates remain, the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner.

Tally of Write-In Votes

As per ORS 254.500, Write-In votes will be tallied together as a single selection. After fully applying the RCV process, individual Write-In votes will only be tallied when the following requirements are met: (1) the Write-In selection receives the highest number of votes cast; or (2) no candidate whose name is printed on the ballot receives 50% plus one or the majority of votes cast.

After all Write-In votes are tallied individually, if a Write-In candidate receives more votes than the top candidate whose name is printed on the ballot, the Write-In candidate may accept the elected position in accordance with ORS 254.548.

If the top Write-In candidate receives less votes than the top candidate, but, more than the other candidate(s) whose names are printed on the ballot, the top candidate whose name is printed on the ballot shall be declared elected.

If the top Write-In candidate receives less votes than the top two candidates whose names are printed on the ballot, all RCV Write-In votes will be recast for the next choice remaining candidate or until the vote is nullified if no subsequent choice is for a remaining candidate.

Applying RCV In the Event of a Tie Vote

If two or more candidates, not including the Write-ln selection, are tied with the lowest votes received, a tie-breaker tally shall be generated with scenarios where each tied candidate is individually considered as a remaining candidate. The scenarios will be used to determine which of the tied candidates would receive the most votes and which candidate(s) would receive the least votes when the other tie vote candidate(s) are eliminated and the next available ranking is applied for the tie-breaker tally. No votes will actually be cast during the tie-breaker tally.

After the tie-breaker process is complete, the tie vote candidate in the scenario that generates the most votes received for that candidate shall be retained for the next round of Ranked Choice Voting. The other tie vote candidate(s) shall be deemed defeated and the next available ranking from those ballots shall be applied to the remaining candidates.

If a tie vote remains amongst the originally tied candidates after the tie-breaker process, all tied candidates shall be eliminated and the next available ranking from those ballots shall be applied to the remaining candidates.

In the application of RCV, if two or more candidates are tied with the highest votes received after all other candidates have been eliminated, the elected candidate shall be determined in accordance with ORS 254.575.