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Ranked Choice Voting for the City of Boulder Mayoral Election

Ranked Choice Voting for the City of Boulder Mayoral Election

Información en español (muy pronto)

Why Ranked Choice Voting for the City of Boulder’s mayoral election?

In 2020, a citizen committee “Our Mayor, Our Choice” successfully put forth a City of Boulder Charter Amendment Petition to change the way the City of Boulder elects its mayor through ranked choice voting. Historically, the mayor has been elected through nominations and votes cast among city council. However, in the 2020 General Election over 78% of voters in the City of Boulder voted in favor of having registered voters decide their mayor through ranked choice voting. The first election of the mayor through ranked choice voting (RCV) is set to take place this fall.

What is Ranked Choice Voting?

Ranked choice voting (sometimes referred to as instant runoff voting – see FAQ below for difference) is a voting method that allows voters to rank election contest candidates in order of preference when there are three or more candidates.

How to mark your ballot:

Rank candidates in the order of your preference by filling in the oval as follows:

  • In the first column, for your first choice.
  • In the second column, for your second choice.
  • In the third column, for your third choice.
  • You can continue to rank candidates until you run out of allowable rankings, run out of candidates, or do not wish to vote for any remaining candidates.

Want to practice? Try this interactive practice ballot on the City of Boulder’s website (note: practice ballot may not display properly on mobile devices).

Common Errors:

  • Do not choose more than one candidate in the same column.
  • Do not choose the same candidate more than once.
  • Do not skip rankings. For example, do not fill in a 1st and 3rd choice without filling in a 2nd choice. Per Secretary of State guidelines, no rankings will be counted after a skipped column/ranking.

How are the votes counted?

All first-choice rankings are counted. A candidate who receives over 50% of the first-choice rankings is the winning candidate and no further rounds of tabulation will take place.

If no candidate has more than 50% of the first-choice rankings, the candidate with the fewest first choice rankings is eliminated, and those votes are transferred to the 2nd choice candidate on the ballot. This elimination and transfer process continues until a candidate has more than 50% of the votes. We only use your 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice if your higher ranked choice(s) are eliminated.

Frequently Asked Questions

The candidate filing period with the City of Boulder is now closed and there are four official certified candidates for mayor:

  • Aaron Brockett
  • Nicole Speer
  • Bob Yates
  • Paul Tweedlie

For more information, see the City of Boulder website. Boulder County will post ballot all city/county content in mid-September after our ballot layout process is complete. Before this time please see the City of Boulder’s website for more information.

If you do not have 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. preferences for this contest, you do not need to fill in those columns. You only need to fill in the number of columns for candidates for whom you prefer and in the order you prefer them. Additionally, know that ranking other candidates does not harm your 1st choice.

No. Ranking a candidate more than once does not benefit the candidate. If a voter ranks one candidate as the voter’s first, second, third, etc. choice, it is the same as if the voter leaves the second, third, etc. choice blank. In other words, if the candidate is eliminated that candidate does not receive your 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice votes.

No. If a voter gives more than one candidate the same ranking, the vote cannot be counted. Only one candidate can represent the voter’s first, second, third, fourth, or fifth choice.

You can rank as many candidates as described in the contest instructions and as there are ranks displayed. For example, if there are 10 candidates listed and 10 columns with numbered choices, you may rank up to 10 candidates with your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. rankings.

If time permits, request a replacement ballot.

If you do not have time to receive a new ballot, follow your voting instructions to cross off the mistake and fill in the correct oval. Full instructions can be found here. Anytime there is an overvote (two or more ovals filled in) a bipartisan team of election judges reviews the vote and uses a Secretary of State voter intent guide to interpret the vote.

At the end of the first round of counting, and any subsequent rounds, if the combined votes of two or more candidates with the lowest vote totals in the current round are less than the number of votes for the candidate with the next-highest number of votes, then the candidates in the lowest-vote group are eliminated. This is referred to as ‘batch elimination.’

Otherwise, as dictated under statute, if two or more candidates tie for the lowest number of votes, the eliminated candidate must be chosen by lot (drawing).

No. The City of Boulder does not have a process to consider write-in candidate for mayor.

Currently, no. The only contest in Boulder County that will be using ranked choice voting is for the mayoral election in the City of Boulder.

Ranked choice voting has been successfully used for many years in jurisdictions outside of Colorado. The City of Boulder will be the first jurisdiction in Colorado to conduct ranked choice voting on a modern voting system. Previously, several other small jurisdictions have used ranked choice voting in Colorado with hand counted ballots.

You may hear the terms ranked choice voting and instant runoff voting used interchangeably.

Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference when there are three or more candidates. Ranked choice voting has been used in contests where there is either a single winner (such as a mayoral contest) or multiple winners (such as a city council or school board contest).

Instant runoff voting is a ranked choice voting method that is used in to select a single winner. In the case of the City of Boulder mayoral contest ranked choice voting election, it is correct to also refer to the method of election as an instant runoff voting. Many jurisdictions around the country have used ranked choice voting for single contest elections to avoid costly runoff elections.

If there were only two candidates certified by the City of Boulder, the winner would be whoever receives over 50% of the vote and would have appeared as a standard “vote for one” contest on your ballot.

Events to Learn about RCV

  • Sept 19 – 6:30 p.m. – In-person event at the Jewish Community Center – 6007 Oreg Avenue in Boulder – Boulder County Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick will be presenting along with City of Boulder Clerk Elesha Johnson on the upcoming changes to City of Boulder elections, including this year’s first ever ranked choice election for their mayoral contest. More details and to RSVP.
  • October 10 – (may continued for additional days) – RSVP details coming soon – Pre-election testing of ballots and equipment – public testing of marking ballots and tabulating ballots through voting system. Will include voting ranked choice voting. Check back in mid-September for details (daytime event).
  • October Webinar / Tour-RCV presentation – Dates/Times TBD – check back in mid-to-late September for details

More Information

Contact Us

Elections Division


303-413-7728 (Fax)


**New as of Jan 4, 2021**
7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Mon-Thurs.
CLOSED Fridays


Boulder: 1750 33rd Street (main office)
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Longmont: 529 Coffman Street*
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Lafayette: 1755 S. Public Road*
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*Only offers paper voter registration forms

Mailing Address

1750 33rd Street, Suite 200
Boulder, CO 80301