It’s Easy—Just Fill in the Bullets

It’s Easy—Just Fill in the Bullets

Primary ballots will be using ranked choice voting; here’s what that means.



Early voting times and places. More at


Arlington will be using ranked choice voting for the first time in the June 20 primary election. Tania Griffin, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, Office of Voter Registration and Elections, explains this is a voting style in which voters rank candidates in order of preference instead of just voting for one person. 

When there are multiple candidates, the voter is allowed to rank as many candidates as the particular jurisdiction allows. For instance, in Arlington this voting method applies to the County Board race this year where six candidates are running for the two open positions. The voter is allowed to rank three candidates in order of preference. She says there is no magic to the number of three preferences. Some jurisdictions around the country who already use this system allow up to six preferences, but Arlington offers three choices due to a software limitation.

Griffin says Arlington is the first jurisdiction in Virginia to use this new system. As of April 2023, 63 U.S. jurisdictions have ranked choice voting in place. This includes two states, three counties and 58 cities.

The way the system works is that a voter selects the first preference by filling in the oval under the number 1 to the right of the candidate's name. To select a second choice fill in the oval under number 2 to the right of the candidate's name. To select a third choice, fill in the oval under number 3 to the right of the candidate’s name.

If your first choice receives the fewest votes, he/she is eliminated and the vote is transferred to the voter’s second choice. If the second choice gets the fewest votes, again this candidate is eliminated. This process continues until the two candidates with the most votes are selected. 

“This allows more broad-based support for whoever is selected and also the ballot to last longer if you choose three candidates.” She adds, “It can also lead to more positive campaigning because a candidate doesn’t want to alienate the voters who may support them as number two or three choice on the ballot. 

Griffin says a lot of information is available on the website. In addition, there have been a number of candidate forums where the new process has been explained. 

“When anyone wants to hold an event, we are happy to come.” She says the voters are also informed before they check in on what to expect with the new system, and there are instructions in the voting booth. 

Griffin says if the voter makes a mistake “we are happy to issue another ballot.” For instance, if the voter chooses multiple candidates under number 1, the machine will indicate there has been an over-vote and the voter can correct it with a new ballot.

“People may be feeling a little intimidated but it is really simple, just filling in a couple of bullets.”

Early voting began in Arlington on May 5 and will continue until June 17.

More on ranked choice voting:

More on voting in Arlington: