325px|An example of runoff voting. Runoff voting involves two rounds of voting. Only two candidates survive to the second round.
325px|An example of runoff voting. Runoff voting involves two rounds of voting. Only two candidates survive to the second round.
The two-round system (also known as the second ballot, runoff voting or ballotage) is a
voting method Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an electorate, in order to make a collective decision or express an opinion usually following discussions, debates or election campaigns. Democracies elect holders of high office by voting. R ...

voting method
used to elect a single candidate, where voters cast a single vote for their preferred candidate. The election proceeds to a second round only if in the first round no candidate has received a
simple majority
simple majority
(more than 50%) of votes cast, or at least some other prescribed percentage. In the second round, usually only the two candidates who received the most votes in the first round, or those candidates who received above a prescribed proportion of the votes, would be candidates in the second round. Any remaining candidate is free to withdraw from the second round. The two-round system is widely used in the election of legislative bodies and directly elected presidents, as well as in other contexts, such as in the election of political party leaders or within companies.


The two-round system is known as runoff voting in the United States, where the second round is known as a runoff election. Run-off voting may also sometimes be used as a generic term to describe any voting method that involves a number of rounds of voting, with eliminations after each round. By this broader definition the two-round system is not the only form of runoff voting, and others include the
exhaustive ballot The exhaustive ballot is a voting system used to elect a single winner. Under the exhaustive ballot the elector casts a single vote for their chosen candidate. However, if no candidate is supported by an overall majority of votes then the candidat ...

exhaustive ballot
instant runoff voting Instant-runoff voting (IRV), also sometimes referred to as the alternative vote (AV), preferential voting, or, in the United States, ranked-choice voting (RCV), though these names are also used for other systems, is a type of ranked preferential ...

instant runoff voting
. However the subject of this article is the two-round system. In
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering , making it the world's second-largest country by total ...

, for example, when there are more than two candidates for political party leadership, an exhaustive ballot system (often called a runoff voting method) is used where one candidate must win a simple majority (over half). Candidates with the fewest votes or candidates who want to move their support to other candidates may also move to remove themselves from the next vote.

Voting and counting

In both rounds of an election conducted using runoff voting, the voter simply marks his/her preferred candidate. If no candidate has an
absolute majority A supermajority, supra-majority, qualified majority or special majority, is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level of support which is greater than the threshold of more than one-half used for a majority. Supermajority rules in a ...

absolute majority
of votes (i.e. more than half) in the first round, then the two candidates with the most votes proceed to a second round, from which all others are excluded. In the second round, because there are only two candidates, and absent a tie vote, one candidate will achieve an absolute majority. In the second round, each voter may change the candidate he or she votes for, even if his/her preferred candidate has not yet been eliminated but he or she has merely changed his/her mind. Some variants of the two-round system use a different rule for choosing candidates for the second round, and allow more than two candidates to proceed to the second round. Under such methods, it is sufficient for a candidate to receive a plurality of votes (more votes than anyone else) to be elected in the second round. In Czech and Kenyan presidential elections, the candidates in the first and second places are permitted to stand in the second round, with all other candidates eliminated, thus providing the contingency for a first- or second-place tie; a plurality is then sufficient to be elected. However, in Ghana, which also employs this contingency method, the majority requirement still holds in the second round, and a third round would be held if it isn't obtained, etc.. Under some variants of runoff voting, there is no formal rule for eliminating candidates, but candidates who receive fewer votes in the first round are expected to withdraw voluntarily.


Examples of use

Two-round voting is or has been used in
French presidential, legislative, and departmental elections
French presidential, legislative, and departmental elections
and in elections for Iran's
Parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries. The ...

and for the
Czech Senate The Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic ( cs|Senát Parlamentu České republiky), usually referred to as Senate, is the Upper House of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. The seat of the Senate is Wallenstein Palace in Prague. Stru ...

Czech Senate
and for the
Cuban Parliament
Cuban Parliament
. In
Italy Italy ( it|Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it|Repubblica Italiana|links=no ), is a country consisting of a continental part, delimited by the Alps, a peninsula and several islands surrounding it. Italy is located in Southern Europ ...

, it is used to elect mayors, but also to decide which party or coalition receives a
majority bonus The majority bonus system (MBS) is a form of semi-proportional representation used in some European countries. Its feature is a majority bonus which gives extra seats or representation in an elected body to the party or to the joined parties with th ...

majority bonus
in city councils. A two-round system is used also to elect the presidents of
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari: , Pashto: , Dari: ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west ...

Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es|link=no|República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by ...

Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich|links=no, ), is a landlocked East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine federated states (''Bund ...

Benin Benin ( , ; french: Bénin ), officially the Republic of Benin (french: République du Bénin) (formerly known as Dahomey), is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, Burkina Faso to the north-west, ...

Bolivia Bolivia ; ay|Wuliwya ; Quechua: ''Puliwya'' , officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a landlocked country located in western-central South America. The constitutional capital is Sucre, while the seat of government and executiv ...

Brazil Brazil ( pt|Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 millio ...

Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg|България|Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg|Република България|links=no|Republika Bǎlgariya, ), is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and No ...

Burkina Faso Burkina Faso (, ; ) is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers an area of around and is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwes ...

Burkina Faso
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Cape Verde
Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), is a country in western South America. It occupies a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Chile covers an area of and has a population ...

Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia (), is a country in South America with territories in North America. Colombia is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, the northwest by Panama, the south by Ecuador and Peru, the east ...

Costa Rica Costa Rica (, ; ; literally "Rich Coast"), officially the Republic of Costa Rica ( es|República de Costa Rica), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeas ...

Costa Rica
Croatia :* french: link=no|République de Croatie :* hu|Horvát Köztársaság :* it|Repubblica di Croazia :* rue|Републіка Хорватія :* sr|Република Хрватска :* sk|Chorvátska republika :* sl|Republika Hrvaška ...

Czech Republic The Czech Republic (; cs|Česká republika ), also known by its short-form name, Czechia (; cz|Česko ), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and S ...

Czech Republic
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr|Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean, and is locate ...

Djibouti Djibouti ar|جيبوتي ', french: link=no|Djibouti, so|Jabuuti , officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Somalia in the south, Ethiopia in the southwest, Eritrea in the north, a ...

Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic ( ; es|República Dominicana, ) is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with H ...

Dominican Republic
East Timor East Timor () or Timor-Leste (; tet|Timór Lorosa'e), officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste ( pt|República Democrática de Timor-Leste, tet|Repúblika Demokrátika Timór-Leste), is an island country in Southeast Asia. It comp ...

East Timor
Ecuador Ecuador ( ; ; Quechua: ''Ikwayur''; Shuar: ''Ecuador'' or ''Ekuatur''), officially the Republic of Ecuador ( es|República del Ecuador, which literally translates as "Republic of the Equator"; Quechua: ''Ikwadur Ripuwlika''; Shuar: ''Ekuatur ...

Egypt Egypt ( ; ar|مِصر ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean count ...

El Salvador | national_anthem = ''Himno Nacional de El Salvador''( en|"National Anthem of El Salvador") | image_map = El Salvador (orthographic projection).svg | image_map2 = | capital = San Salvador | coordinates = | largest_city = San Salvador | offici ...

El Salvador
Finland Finland ( fi|Suomi ; sv|Finland , ), officially the Republic of Finland (, ), is a Nordic country located in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and is defined by the Gul ...

Ghana Ghana (), officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country in West Africa. It spans along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, sharing borders with the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east, the Gulf of Guine ...

Guatemala Guatemala ( ; ), officially the Republic of Guatemala ( es|República de Guatemala|links=no), is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvad ...

Haiti Haiti (; ht|Ayiti ); french: Haïti ; officially the Republic of Haiti (; ) and formerly known as Hayti, is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea, to the east of Cuba and Jama ...

India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Oce ...

Iran Iran ( fa|ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa|جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by ...

(in elections for
President of Iran President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) *President (education), a leader of a college or university *President (government title) President may also refer to: Automobiles * Nissan President, a 1966–2010 Japanese full- ...

President of Iran
Islamic Consultative Assembly The Islamic Consultative Assembly ( fa|مجلس شورای اسلامی|Majles-e Showrā-ye Eslāmī), also called the Iranian Parliament, the Iranian Majles (Arabicised spelling Majlis), is the national legislative body of Iran. The Parliament c ...

Islamic Consultative Assembly
) ,
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id|Republik Indonesia|links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It consists of more than seventeen thousand islands, including Sumatra, ...

Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic, also known as Kirghizia (in Russian), is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan's ...

Liberia Liberia (), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its northwest, Guinea to its north, Ivory Coast to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean to its south-southwest. It has a po ...

Lithuania Lithuania ( ; lt|Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt|Lietuvos Respublika|links=no), is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. It is one of the Baltic states, and lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the southea ...

Malawi Malawi (; or aláwi, officially the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the west, Tanzania to the north and northeast, and Mozambique to the e ...

Moldova Moldova (, ; ), officially the Republic of Moldova ( ro|Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east, and south. The capital city is Chișinău. Most of M ...

North Macedonia North Macedonia, ; sq|Maqedonia e Veriut, (Macedonia until February 2019), officially the Republic of North Macedonia,, is a country in Southeast Europe. It gained independence in 1991 as one of the successor states of Yugoslavia. North ...

North Macedonia
Peru | | image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg | image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg | other_symbol = Great Seal of the State | other_symbol_type = National seal | national_motto ...

, [[President of Poland|Poland, [[President of Portugal|Portugal, [[President of Romania|Romania, [[President of Russia|Russia, [[President of Senegal|Senegal, [[President of Serbia|Serbia, [[President of Slovakia|Slovakia, [[President of Slovenia|Slovenia, [[President of Togo|Togo, [[President of Turkey|Turkey, [[President of Ukraine|Ukraine, [[President of Uruguay|Uruguay and [[President of Zimbabwe|Zimbabwe. In the [[United States, [[2020–21 United States Senate election in Georgia|runoff elections are held in Georgia for senators if a candidate does not receive more than 50% of votes in the first round. Historically it was used to elect the [[Reichstag (German Empire)|Reichstag in the [[German Empire between 1871 and 1918 and the [[Storting of Norway from 1905 to 1919, in [[New Zealand in the [[1908 New Zealand general election|1908 and [[1911 New Zealand general election|1911 elections, and in [[Israel to elect the [[Prime Minister of Israel|Prime Minister in the [[1996 Israeli general election|1996, [[1999 Israeli general election|1999 and [[2001 Israeli prime ministerial election|2001 elections.

French 2002 presidential election

In the [[2002 French presidential election, the two contenders described by the media as possible winners were [[Jacques Chirac and [[Lionel Jospin, who represented the largest two political parties in France at the time. However, 16 candidates were on the ballot, including [[Jean-Pierre Chevènement#2002 presidential election|Jean-Pierre Chevènement (5.33%) and [[Christiane Taubira (2.32%) from the [[Plural Left coalition of Jospin, who refused by excess of confidence to dissuade them. With the left vote divided among a number of candidates, a third contender, [[Jean-Marie Le Pen, unexpectedly obtained slightly more than Jospin in the first round: * Jacques Chirac (Centre-right, Gaullist): 19.88% * Jean-Marie Le Pen (Far-right, National Front): 16.86% * Lionel Jospin (Centre-left, Socialist): 16.18% The other candidates received smaller percentages on the first round. Because no candidate had obtained an absolute majority of the votes in the first round, the top two candidates went into the second round. Most supporters of the parties which did not get through to the second round (and Chirac's supporters) voted for Chirac, who won with a very large majority: * Jacques Chirac (Centre-right, Gaullist): 82.21% * Jean-Marie Le Pen (Far-right, National Front): 17.79%

German Weimar Republic

The [[President of Germany (1919–1945)|President of Germany was popularly elected in [[1925 German presidential election|1925 and [[1932 German presidential election|1932 by a two-round system. In the second round, a candidate could run even if they had not done so in the first round, and they did not require an absolute majority to win. In both elections, the communist candidate, [[Ernst Thälmann, did not withdraw and ran in the second round. In 1925, that probably ensured the election of [[Paul von Hindenburg (with only 48.3% of the vote), rather than [[Wilhelm Marx, the centrist candidate. Hindenburg had not run in the first round of the 1925 election.

Similar methods

Exhaustive ballot

The exhaustive ballot (EB) is similar to the two-round system, but involves more rounds of voting rather than just two. If no candidate receives an absolute majority in the first round then the candidate(s) with the fewest votes is eliminated and excluded from further ballots. The process of exclusion and reballot continues until one candidate has an absolute majority. Because voters may have to cast votes several times, EB is not used in large-scale public elections. Instead it is used in smaller contests such as the election of the presiding officer of an assembly; one long-standing example of its use is in the [[United Kingdom, where local associations (LCAs) of the [[Conservative Party (UK)|Conservative Party use EB to elect their prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs). Exhaustive ballot is also used by FIFA and the International Olympic Committee to select hosts. EB often elects a different winner from runoff voting. Because the two-round system excludes more than one candidate after the first round, it is possible for a candidate to be eliminated who would have gone on to win the election under EB. A hybrid system of EB is used by the Libertarian Party of the United States to select its presidential and vice-presidential nominees. It is hybrid because "None of the Above" (NOTA) is always on the ballot, regardless of its percentage, and because I n the first round, if no majority is reached for any candidate, the lowest candidate (other than NOTA) is eliminated, along with all other candidates who did not earn 5% of the vote. The end result of this is that the first round of voting tends to eliminate the lesser candidates, and there is always the possibility that nobody wins.

Instant-runoff voting

Instant-runoff voting (IRV) (also known as preferential voting or ranked-choice voting) like the exhaustive ballot involves multiple reiterative counts in which the candidate with fewest votes is eliminated each time. Whilst the exhaustive ballot and the two-round system both involve voters casting a separate vote in each round, under instant-runoff, voters vote only once. This is possible because, rather than voting for only a single candidate, the voter ranks all of the candidates in order of preference. These preferences are then used to transfer the votes of those whose first preference has been eliminated during the course of the count. Because the two-round system and the exhaustive ballot involve separate rounds of voting, voters can use the results of one round to decide how they will vote in the next, whereas this is not possible under IRV. Because it is necessary only to vote once, IRV, like the two-round system, is used for large-scale elections in many places such as Australian general and state elections. IRV often elects a different winner than the two-round system and tends to produce the same results as the exhaustive ballot. Variants of instant-runoff voting can be designed to reflect the same rules as a two-round voting system. If no single candidate has an absolute majority of votes then only the two highest polling candidates progress to the second count, while all other candidates are excluded and their votes redistributed according to the recorded preferences for continuing candidates. One variant that works this way is called the Contingent vote, detailed below. In [[Australia it is called ''preferential voting'' and is used to elect members of, among other bodies, the [[House of Representatives (Australia)|House of Representatives and the [[Australian Senate|Senate. In [[Republic of Ireland|Ireland it is known as [[single transferable vote and is used for [[Irish presidential election|presidential elections and parliamentary elections.

Contingent vote

The contingent vote is a variant of instant-runoff voting that has been used in the past in [[Queensland, [[Australia. Under the contingent vote voters cast only one vote, by ranking all of the candidates in order of preference. However it involves only two rounds of counting and uses the same rule for eliminating candidates as the two-round system. After the first round all but the two candidates with most votes are eliminated. Therefore, one candidate always achieves an absolute majority in the second round. Because of these similarities the contingent vote tends to elect the same winner as the two-round system, and may produce different results to instant-runoff voting. A variant of the contingent vote, called the [[Supplementary Vote|supplementary vote, is used to elect some mayors in the [[United Kingdom. Another variant elects the [[President of Sri Lanka. A criticism of this method is that "it requires two polls, and gives opportunity for intrigue of various kinds."

Louisiana and nonpartisan blanket primary systems

In the United States, the Louisiana primary, introduced in [[Louisiana for partisan [[Elections in Louisiana|state elections in 1975 and federal elections in 1978 (with a brief return using a [[closed primary system in 2010), is virtually identical to the two-round system. Instead of the standard American system of [[primary elections to choose each party's candidate, followed by a general election contest between the winners of the primaries, the Louisiana primary allows voters to select any candidate, regardless of party affiliation. If one candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes cast, he or she is declared the winner. Otherwise, the two highest vote-winners in the first round—in effect, the first round of a two-round system—are then the only candidates whose names appear on the ballot at a runoff election, effectively requiring one candidate to win an absolute majority to take office. The key difference between the Louisiana primary and a typical two-round system is that political parties do not select the individuals using their party labels; rather, candidates can self-identify using the label of their preferred political party (or no party at all). The state of [[Washington (state)|Washington [[Initiative 872|adopted a system similar to Louisiana's in 2008, which came into effect in 2010 after legal difficulties. [[California approved a [[California Proposition 14 (2010)|similar system in 2010, coming into effect for the [[2011 California's 36th congressional district special election|36th congressional district election in February 2011. The system used in Washington and California is referred to as the [[nonpartisan blanket primary or top-two primary system. Like the Louisiana primary, candidates self-select their party label on the ballot rather than being nominated by a particular political party. The main difference between a nonpartisan blanket primary and either a standard two-round system or the Louisiana primary is that a second round of voting is ''required'', even if a candidate wins an absolute majority of votes in the primary.

Two-party-preferred vote

In [[Australian politics (predominantly in the lower (senatorial/house) level(s)), the [[Two-party-preferred vote (TPP or 2PP), is the result of an election or opinion poll after preferences have been distributed to the highest two candidates, who in some cases can be independents. For the purposes of TPP, the Liberal/National Coalition is usually considered a single party, with Labor being the other major party. Typically the TPP is expressed as the percentages of votes attracted by each of the two major parties, e.g. "Coalition 45%, Labor 55%", where the values include both primary votes and preferences. The TPP is an indicator of how much swing has been attained/is required to change the result, taking into consideration preferences, which may have a significant effect on the result.

Compliance with voting method criteria

Most of the mathematical criteria by which voting methods are compared were formulated for voters with ordinal preferences. Some methods, like [[approval voting, request information than can't be unambiguously inferred from a single set of ordinal preferences. The two-round system is such a method, because the voters are not forced to vote according to a single ordinal preference in both rounds. Since the two-round system requires more information from each voter than a single ordinal ballot provides, one can't fit the criteria that are formulated expressly for voters with ordinal preferences without making a generalization as to how the voters will behave. The same problem exists in Approval voting, where one has to make assumptions as to how the voters will place their approval cutoffs. If the voters determine their preferences before the election and always vote directly consistent to them, they will emulate the [[contingent vote and get the same results as if they were to use that method. Therefore, in that model of voting behavior, the two-round system passes all criteria that the contingent vote passes, and fails all criteria the contingent vote fails. Since the voters in the two-round system don't have to choose their second round votes while voting in the first round, they are able to adjust their votes as players in a [[game theory|game. More complex models consider voter behavior when the voters reach a game-theoretical equilibrium from which they have no incentive, as defined by their internal preferences, to further change their behavior. However, because these equilibria are complex, only partial results are known. With respect to the voters' internal preferences, the two-round system passes the majority criterion in this model, as a majority can always coordinate to elect their preferred candidate. Also, in the case of three candidates or less and a robust political equilibrium, the two-round system will pick the Condorcet winner whenever there is one, which is not the case in the Contingent vote model. The equilibrium mentioned above is a perfect-information equilibrium and so only strictly holds in idealized conditions where every voter knows every other voter's preference. Thus it provides an upper bound on what can be achieved with rational (self-interested) coordination or knowledge of others' preferences. Since the voters almost surely won't have perfect information, it may not apply to real elections. In that matter, it is similar to the [[perfect competition model sometimes used in economics. To the extent that real elections approach this upper bound, large elections would do so less so than small ones, because it's less likely that a large electorate has information about all the other voters than that a small electorate has.

Tactical voting and strategic nomination

Runoff voting is intended to reduce the potential for eliminating "wasted" votes by [[tactical voting. Under the [[plurality voting system|first past the post (plurality) method [[vote splitting|voters are encouraged to vote tactically by voting for only one of the two leading candidates, because a vote for any other candidate will not affect the result. Under runoff voting this tactic, known as "compromising", is sometimes unnecessary because, even if a voter's favourite candidate is eliminated in the first round, they will still have an opportunity to influence the result of the election by voting for a more popular candidate in the second round. However the tactic of compromising can still be used in runoff voting because it is sometimes necessary to compromise as a way of influencing which two candidates will survive to the second round. In order to do this it is necessary to vote for one of the ''three'' leading candidates in the first round, just as in an election held under the plurality method it is necessary to vote for one of the ''two'' leading candidates. Runoff voting is also vulnerable to another tactic called "push over". This is a tactic by which voters vote tactically for an unpopular "push over" candidate in the first round as a way of helping their true favourite candidate win in the second round. The purpose of voting for the push over, in theory, is to ensure that it is this weak candidate, rather than a stronger rival, who survives to challenge a one's preferred candidate in the second round. But in practice, such a tactic may prove counter-productive. If so many voters give their first preferences to the "weak" candidate that it ends up ''winning'' the first round, it is highly likely they will gain enough campaign momentum to have a strong chance of winning the runoff, too, and with it, the election. At the very least, their opponent would have to start taking the so-called weak candidate seriously, particularly if the runoff follows quickly after the first round. Runoff voting can be influenced by [[strategic nomination; this is where candidates and political factions influence the result of an election by either nominating extra candidates or withdrawing a candidate who would otherwise have stood. Runoff voting is vulnerable to strategic nomination for the same reasons that it is open to the voting tactic of compromising. This is because a candidate who knows they are unlikely to win can ensure that another candidate they support makes it to the second round by withdrawing from the race before the first round occurs, or by never choosing to stand in the first place. By withdrawing candidates a political faction can avoid the [[spoiler effect, whereby a candidate "splits the vote" of its supporters. A famous example of this spoiler effect occurred in the [[2002 French presidential election, when so many left-wing candidates stood in the first round that all of them were eliminated and two right-wing candidates advanced to the second round. Conversely, an important faction may have an interest in helping fund the campaign of smaller factions with a very different political agenda, so that these smaller parties end up weakening their own agenda.

Impact on factions and candidates

Runoff voting encourages candidates to appeal to a broad cross-section of voters. This is because, in order to win an absolute majority in the second round, it is necessary for a candidate to win the support of voters whose favourite candidate has been eliminated. Under runoff voting, between rounds of voting, eliminated candidates, and the factions who previously supported them, often issue recommendations to their supporters as to whom to vote for in the second round of the contest. This means that eliminated candidates are still able to influence the result of the election. This influence leads to political bargaining between the two remaining candidates and the parties and candidates who have been eliminated, sometimes resulting in the two successful candidates making policy concessions to the less successful ones. Because it encourages conciliation and negotiation in these ways, runoff voting is advocated, in various forms, by some supporters of [[deliberative democracy. Runoff voting is designed for single-seat constituencies. Therefore, like other single-seat methods, if used to elect a council or [[legislature it will not produce [[proportional representation (PR). This means that it is likely to lead to the representation of a small number of larger parties in an assembly, rather than a proliferation of small parties. In practice, runoff voting produces results very similar to those produced by the plurality method, and encourages a two-party system similar to those found in many countries that use plurality. Under a [[parliamentary system, it is more likely to produce single-party governments than are PR methods, which tend to produce [[coalition governments. While runoff voting is designed to ensure that each individual candidate elected is supported by a majority of those in their constituency, if used to elect an assembly it does not ensure this result on a national level. As in other non-PR methods, the party or coalition which wins a majority of seats will often not have the support of an absolute majority of voters across the nation.


The intention of runoff voting is that the winning candidate will have the support of an
absolute majority A supermajority, supra-majority, qualified majority or special majority, is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level of support which is greater than the threshold of more than one-half used for a majority. Supermajority rules in a ...

absolute majority
of voters. Under the first past the post method the candidate with most votes (a plurality) wins, even if they do not have an absolute majority (more than half) of votes. The two-round system tries to overcome this problem by permitting only two candidates in the second round, so that one must receive an absolute majority of votes. Critics argue that the absolute majority obtained by the winner of runoff voting is an artificial one. Instant-runoff voting and the exhaustive ballot are two other voting methods that create an absolute majority for one candidate by eliminating weaker candidates over multiple rounds. However, in cases where there are three or more strong candidates, runoff voting will sometimes produce an absolute majority for a different winner than the candidate elected by the other two. Advocates of [[Condorcet methods argue that a candidate can claim to have majority support only if they are the "Condorcet winner" – that is, the candidate who would beat every other candidate in a series of one-on-one elections. In runoff voting the winning candidate is only matched, one-on-one, with one of the other candidates. When a Condorcet winner exists, he or she does not necessarily win a runoff election due to insufficient support in the first round. Runoff advocates counter that voters' first preference is more important than lower preferences because that is where voters are putting the most effort of decision and that, unlike Condorcet methods, runoffs require a high showing among the full field of choices in addition to a strong showing in the final head-to-head competition. Condorcet methods can allow candidates to win who have minimal first-choice support and can win largely on the compromise appeal of being ranked second or third by more voters.

Practical implications

In large-scale public elections the two rounds of runoff voting are held on separate days, and so involve voters going to the polls twice. In smaller elections, such as those in assemblies or private organisations, it is sometimes possible to conduct both rounds in quick succession. However the fact that it involves two rounds means that, for large elections, runoff voting is more expensive than some other electoral methods. It may also lead to [[voter fatigue and a reduced [[voter turnout|turn-out in the second round. In runoff voting, the counting of votes in each round is simple and occurs in the same way as under the plurality methods. [[Ranked voting systems, such as instant-runoff voting, involve a longer, more complicated count.


One of the strongest criticisms against the two-round voting system is the cost required to conduct two ballots. The two-round voting system also has the potential to cause political instability between the two rounds of voting, adding further to the economic impact of the two-round electoral system. Under an instant run-off ballot method there is only one round. The possibly increased costs of a two-round system have to be weighed against a debate of possibly better quality, between two clear options.

See also

*[[Ranked voting systems *[[Keynesian beauty contest *[[List of electoral systems by country


External links

ACE Project: Two Round SystemA Handbook of Electoral System Design
International IDEAElectoral Design Reference
from th
ACE Project
{{voting methods [[Category:Runoff voting [[Category:Single-winner electoral systems [[Category:Non-monotonic electoral systems