The election for moderators is currently going on. Three new moderators will be elected.

On the election page you are allowed to rank your choices of the candidates. It is a little unclear whether you can rank 3 candidates or any number. But, irrespective of that, I'm wondering about the process for determining the winners based on these rankings.

Elsewhere on meta it has been said that each voter gets a "Single Transferable Vote." Can this be made a little more precise? Under what circumstances is my vote transferred from my 1st to 2nd place selection?

I worry that, because multiple moderators are being elected, this process may be gameable; but because I don't know the exact process I can't say for sure.


2 Answers 2


Massimo Ortolano is correct in saying that we use Meeks STV to attribute your vote to the candidates. The general overview is that you can rank as many of the candidates as you wish, in the order you prefer. Your first choice candidate will get your vote first and that vote will stay with them until one of two things happens:

  1. your candidate is eliminated
  2. your candidate reaches the threshold to be elected.

Should your top candidate be eliminated, your vote will then be transferred to the second-highest ranked candidate who remains in the election. Should the candidate reach the threshold, a fractional amount of your vote proportional to the overage being reallocated to other candidates will be awarded to your next-highest ranked candidate who remains in the election.

This process will continue until three candidates have reached the threshold.

Up until this very election, we only allowed voters to rank the top three candidate selections and this led to a potential for gaming the ranks - if you were certain that your favorite would win election, you might opt to rank them third - or not at all - which could cause a spoiler effect where your top candidate doesn't end up being elected at all. While unlikely, this is a known issue with all STV formats but by allowing you to rank all candidates rather than only three, we're hoping to reduce the effect since you will have less reason to not rank your top choice first.

The other caveat is that you should only rank candidates you wish to win the election do not rank a candidate who you feel is a bad choice for the position! If you dislike a candidate but vote for them anyway, there is a (unlikely) chance that your vote may actually go to that candidate - who you don't want to win.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Thanks very much! In particular the information that you should only rank candidates you wish to win the election is very helpful (and possibly could be advertised more clearly on the election page itself). $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ Also, are you supposed to submit the ballot somehow? Or is it just counted automatically according to your preferences when the voting period ends? $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ There should be a button to indicate that you are finished but you don't need to "submit", @Lucia if it is unclear, consider checking the bug post here on MO meta. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Catija: I don't see a button to indicate that I'm finished. I'll check also the bug post. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Lucia this video looks like my info is incorrect. Saving is automatic and you don't need to do anything to confirm your vote. youtu.be/b0KHJsmFCO8 $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija: Thanks! So as I understand it, users can edit their preferences until the last minute, and the system will just retain the last saved preference. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ That's correct, @Lucia ! $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ Does your last paragraph imply that it is possible for less than 3 candidates to be elected, if people vote for few enough candidates? $\endgroup$
    – Will Sawin
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ @WillSawin: I believe no: all ties are resolved using pseudo-random choice, according to the original specification linked at the Wikipedia page. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 9:27

From the election page (highlighted links: the second one is a link to a Wikipedia page):

We will calculate the winners using OpaVote with the Meek STV method, which automatically weights users' votes in the way that does the most good for the candidates they have selected, in order of preference.

Also from OpaVote, Single Transferable Vote

Anyway, it would be probably good if Stack Exchange could write its own description of the process within the help pages.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I guess one follow up question would be: is it always sensible to use all of your rankings? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ @SamHopkins That, I don’t know. I’ve actually never studied the process :-) Personally, I seldom ranked all the candidates in the elections in which I voted, only those I wanted to vote for. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ @SamHopkins no! You should only rank candidates you wish to see as moderators. Candidates you feel are unfit should not be ranked. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Catija I wonder if it'd be possible to emphasise that more in the election guidance, as it seems to be confusing a few people. When voting in this MO election, I ranked all 9 candidates, even the one(s) that I didn't want to win. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 7:45

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