Shelby County Elections Administrator Linda Phillips uses the planets to walk people through how ranked choice voting works. Even Pluto is included in the nine-way race, although it is no longer considered a planet. She took the example to the Memphis City Council last week, the only elected body affected by the city charter provision that would have voters rank their choices in a single-member district council race by preference. It does away with later runoff elections in races where no candidate gets a simple majority of the votes cast.
The candidate with the lowest total in the initial election is eliminated. The vote count then takes the second preference of voters and distributes them to the other candidates. That continues until someone has a majority of the votes cast. If the second preference is also out of the running, the count goes to a third preference. If that third preference gets counted out, the ballot is then declared “exhausted” – unusable.
Council member Edmund Ford Jr. used his own example to explain how the process could work. Instead of planets, he used the names of council members involved in past runoff elections and the names of their rivals.