How does the voting in the elections work?

I know that we elect two moderators and I see that I can rank all the candidates.

How does this work exactly? What are the implications of ranking more than one or two persons ? If I have a clear preference, do I vote only for them, or do I still cast other votes? Does voting for a 2nd and 3rd or even 4th choice candidate reduce the power of my vote for my 1st choice candidate?

For a closely related earlier post see Do I have to cast three votes in the election? However, the context changed a bit.

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    $\begingroup$ BTW, making a post like this is what differentiates a good moderator from a good participant on the site (and all the current candidates are certainly the latter). There are some candidates whose participation I really enjoy and appreciate, but who I haven't (yet) seen much involved in the policy and similar math.meta discussions I'm less likely to vote for them in this election, but would love to see them do more of this administrate-y work and vote for them in the future. Good Luck to all. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Jul 25, 2020 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ This post is linked from the (currently active) election page. Since the voting system has been recently revamped to allow one to rank more than 3 candidates, perhaps this Q&A should go through some minor touch ups to reflect that? $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2021 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ @TheAmplitwist yes good point. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Nov 9, 2021 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ @quid Thanks for updating this Q&A! The answer now seems to work for the most general scenario of voting for N candidates to fill M positions, but the question specifically says, "I know that we elect two moderators…". Would it be better to make the question general, too, so that this post need not be edited every election (since the number of positions to fill in each election need not remain constant)? $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2021 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


How does voting work?

You can rank any number of candidates. You select a first choice, a second choice, a third choice, etc. (It is possible to only make a first or a only a first and second choice.) You do not cast equivalent votes.

Once voting ends, initially only the first choices are considered. The candidate that comes in last is eliminated, and their ballots are moved to each voter's second choice. Votes are counted again, the new last place candidate is eliminated, and once again and their ballots are moved to each voter's next best choice. This process continues until a winner is determined. For details, see How are moderator election votes counted, in plain English?

In short, as long as your first choice has not been eliminated, your vote only counts for them. Only if they are eliminated does your second choice become relevant.

Therefore, even if you have a clear preference for one candidate, you still should consider making further choices if you have any preference between the remaining candidates. It will not harm your first choice at the start (your vote only counts for them), and if they do not make it, you still retain some influence in the process.

Can picking 2nd/3rd choices reduce my 1st choice candidate's chance to win?

No. Your 2nd choice does not activate until your 1st choice has already lost definitively, so picking a 2nd choice cannot hurt your 1st choice. Similarly, picking a 3rd choice candidate cannot hurt your 2nd choice's chances.

Picking only a first choice candidate will not make your vote for them any "stronger."

What is the effect of only picking a first choice candidate?

The only effect this would have would be to abdicate your ability to express preference between remaining candidates in the case that your first candidate does not win.

You should only do this if you like one candidate and equally dislike all other candidates.

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    $\begingroup$ There is a small "paradox" associated to this voting procedure. If 90% of voters agree that candidate X is their second choice, then X will be eliminated in the first round, having only 10% or less of the vote, even though X may have a claim to be the true consensus pick. Of course, every voting procedure is subject to one "paradox" or another, so I'm not advocating the rejection of the procedure that has been put in place. $\endgroup$ Jul 25, 2020 at 3:30
  • $\begingroup$ Can you change your vote up until the end of the election? Or is a vote finalized once it's submitted? $\endgroup$
    – KReiser
    Jul 27, 2020 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ @KReiser you can change. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Jul 27, 2020 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. I moved the extended discussion about other election systems and French presidential elections. Please feel free to continue there. Also please feel free to ask other questions here. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Jul 28, 2020 at 10:11
  • $\begingroup$ Where do I find the ballot to be marked?> $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2021 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @herbsteinberg The ballot is available on the right-hand sidebar. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2021 at 4:47

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