Ranked Choice Voting for the City of Boulder Mayoral Election

Ranked Choice Voting for the City of Boulder Mayoral Election

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:

Graphic of an example ballot on how to fill in a 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:

Graphic on how to not to fill in your ballot

Graphic on how to not to fill in your ballot

  • 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. If no candidate has more than 50% of the first-choice rankings, the candidate with the fewest first place votes is eliminated, and those ballots then have their 2nd choice counted. This elimination process continues until a candidate has more than 50% of the vote. 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 the voting instructions on your ballot to cross off the mistake and fill in the correct oval.

If you skip a ranking, for example you mark 1st and 3rd choices but skip a 2nd choice, your choice(s) after the skip will not count. In the example, only your 1st choice would count. Before turning in your ballot, make sure to check that you have marked your preferences in a consecutive order, starting with your first choice and continuing with your 2nd, 3rd and so on. You only need to rank as many candidates as you have preferences, you do not need to rank all candidates.

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

  • Boulder County Elections hosted two webinars (same webinar) on Ranked Choice Voting on Oct 18 and Oct 23. If you missed it, watch the RCV webinar now.
  • Boulder County Elections hosted an Election Information Webinar (with overview of RCV) on Oct 25. If you missed it, watch the Election Info webinar now.
  • Nov 3, 4, 6 – Ballot Processing Tours – Not RCV specific, but every year our office hosts tours during ballot processing periods. RSVP requested.

More Information

Contact Us

Elections Division


303-413-7728 (Fax)

Boulder County Elections website

7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed Fridays


Boulder: 1750 33rd St. (main office)
Map and Directions Boulder Location

Longmont: 529 Coffman St.*
Map and Directions Longmont Location

Lafayette: 1755 S. Public Road*
Map and Directions Lafayette Location
* Longmont and Lafayette locations only offer paper voter registration forms

Mailing Address

1750 33rd St., Suite 200
Boulder, CO 80301

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