STAR voting

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Image shows a ballot which allows voters to rate candidates from 0 up to 5 stars. The top of the ballot contains the STAR Voting logo and Score Then Automatic Runoff acronym, and then ballot instructions, the bottom explains how STAR Voting is counted.
The STAR Voting ballot, including recommended instructions and formatting details
Graphic explaining how STAR Voting works

STAR voting is an electoral system for single-seat elections.[1][2] Variations also exist for multi-winner and proportional representation elections.[3] The name (an allusion to star ratings) stands for "Score then Automatic Runoff", referring to the fact that this system is a combination of score voting, to pick two finalists with the highest total scores, followed by an "automatic runoff" in which the finalist who is preferred on more ballots wins. It is a type of cardinal voting electoral system.


In STAR, voters are given a score ballot (or ratings ballot) on which each voter scores candidates with a number from 0 up to 5, with 0 representing "worst" and 5 representing "best."

The scores for each candidate are then summed, and the two highest-scored candidates are selected as finalists.

In the automatic runoff round, the finalist who was given a higher score on a greater number of ballots is selected as the winner.


The concept was first proposed in October 2014 by Mark Frohnmayer, and was initially called score runoff voting (SRV).[4] The runoff step was introduced in order to reduce strategic incentives in ordinary score voting, such as bullet voting and tactical maximization.[5] Thus, STAR is intended to be a hybrid between (rated) score voting and (ranked) instant runoff voting.[6][7]

The first movement to implement STAR voting was centered in Oregon,[8][9] with chapters in Eugene, Portland, Salem, Astoria, and Ashland.[10] In July 2018, supporters submitted over 16,000 signatures for a ballot initiative in Lane County, Oregon, putting Measure 20-290 on the November 2018 ballot.[1][11][12][13] This ballot measure almost passed, with 47.6% of voters voting yes, and 52.4% of voters voting no.[14][15]

In 2019, the Multnomah County Democratic Party adopted STAR for all internal elections.[16][17]

A 2020 ballot initiative for the city of Eugene (in which a 54% majority had supported the 2018 county initiative) was attempted, as well as a second attempt at Lane County,[18] and an initiative in Troutdale, Oregon.[19] On July 27, 2020, after the Eugene City Council deadlocked at 4-4 on a vote to refer a measure allowing STAR voting to be used in city elections to the November 2020 ballot, Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis cast the deciding vote against the referral, meaning that no Eugene ballot measure would be held in 2020.[20]

The Independent Party of Oregon used STAR voting in their 2020 primary election.[21][22][23][24] The Democratic Party of Oregon used STAR Voting for their elections for delegates to the 2020 Democratic convention.[24] In 2022, the Libertarian Party of Oregon authorized STAR voting for its internal elections starting in 2023.[25]


Tennessee and its four major cities: Memphis in the south-west; Nashville in the centre, Chattanooga in the south, and Knoxville in the east

Imagine that Tennessee is having an election on the location of its capital. The population of Tennessee is concentrated around its four major cities, which are spread throughout the state. For this example, suppose that the entire electorate lives in these four cities and that everyone wants to live as near to the capital as possible.

The candidates for the capital are:

  • Memphis, the state's largest city, with 42% of the voters, but located far from the other cities
  • Nashville, with 26% of the voters, near the center of the state
  • Knoxville, with 17% of the voters
  • Chattanooga, with 15% of the voters

The preferences of the voters would be divided like this:

42% of voters
(close to Memphis)
26% of voters
(close to Nashville)
15% of voters
(close to Chattanooga)
17% of voters
(close to Knoxville)
  1. Memphis
  2. Nashville
  3. Chattanooga
  4. Knoxville
  1. Nashville
  2. Chattanooga
  3. Knoxville
  4. Memphis
  1. Chattanooga
  2. Knoxville
  3. Nashville
  4. Memphis
  1. Knoxville
  2. Chattanooga
  3. Nashville
  4. Memphis

Suppose that 100 voters each decided to score from 0 to 5 stars each city such that their most liked choice got 5 stars, and least liked choice got 0 stars, with the intermediate choices getting an amount proportional to their relative distance.

Voter from/
City Choice
Memphis Nashville Chattanooga Knoxville Total
Memphis 210 (42 × 5) 0 (26 × 0) 0 (15 × 0) 0 (17 × 0) 210
Nashville 84 (42 × 2) 130 (26 × 5) 45 (15 × 3) 34 (17 × 2) 293
Chattanooga 42 (42 × 1) 52 (26 × 2) 75 (15 × 5) 68 (17 × 4) 237
Knoxville 0 (42 × 0) 26 (26 × 1) 45 (15 × 3) 85 (17 × 5) 156

The top-two frontrunners are Nashville and Chattanooga. Of the two, Nashville is preferred by 68% (42+26) to 32% (15+17) of voters, so Nashville, the capital in real life, likewise wins in the example.

For comparison, note that traditional first-past-the-post would elect Memphis, even though most citizens consider it the worst choice, because 42% is larger than any other single city. Instant-runoff voting would elect the 2nd-worst choice (Knoxville), because the central candidates would be eliminated early. Under score voting, Nashville would have won, since it had the highest score in the first round. In approval voting, with each voter selecting their top two cities, Nashville would also win because of the significant boost from Memphis residents. A two-round system would have a runoff between Memphis and Nashville, where Nashville would win.

In this particular case, there is no way for any single city of voters to get a better outcome through tactical voting. However, Chattanooga and Knoxville voters combined could vote strategically to make Chattanooga win; while Memphis and Nashville voters could defend against that strategy and ensure Nashville still won by strategically giving Nashville a higher rating and/or Chattanooga and Knoxville lower ratings.


Tie votes in STAR Voting are rare, but as with any voting method they can occur, especially in elections without many voters. In most cases, ties in STAR voting can be broken by referring back to the ballots themselves for either the Scoring or Runoff round. Ties in the Scoring round are broken in favor of the candidate who was preferred by more voters. Ties in the Runoff round are broken in favor of the candidate who was scored higher. Ties which cannot be broken as above are considered a true tie.[26]


STAR Voting can be used for multi-winner elections as in Bloc STAR voting[27] or it can be used for proportional representation elections using Proportional STAR Voting,[28] also known as STAR-PR.

Proportional STAR Voting: Each voter scores all the candidates on a scale from 0 up to 5. The results are tabulated using a proportional STAR algorithm such as Allocated Score[29] or Sequentially Spent Score.[30][31]


Unlike ranked voting systems, STAR voting allows voters to express preferences of varying strengths, though unlike Score voting, it does not take voters' strength of preference into account in 2-candidate elections.[32]

STAR voting satisfies the monotonicity criterion, i.e. raising your vote's score for a candidate can never hurt their chances of winning, and lowering it can never help their chances.[33][34] It also satisfies the resolvability criterion (in both Tideman and Woodall's versions).

It does not satisfy the Condorcet criterion (i.e., is not a Condorcet method), although with all-strategic voters and perfect information, the Condorcet winner is a strong Nash equilibrium.[35] It does, however, satisfy the Condorcet loser criterion and the majority loser criterion.[36]

There are a number of other voting system criteria it does not fully satisfy. These include the majority criterion, since the highest-rated candidates that proceed to the runoff may not be the first preference of a majority.[37] It does not satisfy the mutual majority criterion, although the more candidates there are in the mutual majority set, the greater the chances that at least one of them is among the two finalists in the runoff, in which case one of them will win. It does not always satisfy reversal symmetry (though it only violates it for exactly three candidates).

It also violates participation, consistency; and independence of clones (where any clones of the highest rated candidate may receive almost the same rating and enter the runoff, ahead of the second most popular non-clone).

It does not satisfy the later-no-harm criterion, meaning that giving a positive rating to a less-preferred candidate can cause a more-preferred candidate to lose.[38]

Discussion of STAR's criteria compliances[edit]

FairVote, an organization that promotes the use of instant-runoff voting, argues that STAR's failure of the majority criterion and the later-no-harm criterion is problematic.[39] STAR advocates have responded,[40] noting that STAR satisfies a relaxed version of the majority criterion,[41] and always elects the majority preferred finalist (of all voters who have a preference between the finalists), and that the system better balances the competing, incompatible favorite betrayal and later-no-harm criteria, resulting in superior voter satisfaction, as demonstrated by simulations in which STAR performs better than many other methods, including Instant Runoff voting.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Revolutionary New Voting Method Bolstered By over 16,000 Voters in Oregon County". The Independent Voter Network. 2018-07-09. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  2. ^ "Equal Vote Coalition". Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  3. ^ "Single or Multi-Winner STAR?". STAR Voting. Retrieved 2023-04-21.
  4. ^ "Score Runoff Voting: The New Voting Method that Could Save Our Democratic Process". Independent Voter Network. 2016-12-08. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  5. ^ "Strategic SRV?". Equal Vote Coalition. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  6. ^ "Equal Systems Science". Equal Vote Coalition. Retrieved 2018-07-14. a two-phase, one-election hybrid of the Rating and Ranked Choice categories
  7. ^ "Comparing Voting Systems: A Report Card". Equal Vote Coalition. Retrieved 2018-07-14. STAR Voting is the new and improved hybrid of RCV and Score Voting
  8. ^ Russo, Ed. "New way to elect Lane County leaders could appear on ballot". The Register-Guard.
  9. ^ "Residents could put STAR Voting on November ballot".
  10. ^ "Chapters". STAR Voting. Retrieved 2020-01-09.
  11. ^ "STAR Voting on Nov ballot!". STAR Voting For Lane County. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  12. ^ "November 6, 2018 General Election - Lane County". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  13. ^ "Content Manager WebDrawer - 2018 General Election Voters Pamphlet Book 4 Lane County".
  14. ^ Foden-Vencil, Kristian (November 7, 2018). "Lane County, Oregon, Effort To Change Voting System Fails". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved 2018-11-10.
  15. ^ "General Election Lane County, November 6, 2018 All Precincts, All Districts, All ScanStations, All Contests, All Boxes Unofficial Results" (PDF). November 7, 2018. 20-290 Lane County Adopts STAR Voting: Yes 74408, No 82157, Total 156565
  16. ^ Barker, Joel (2019-10-01). "Multnomah County Democrats Adopt STAR voting for internal party elections". Multnomah County Democrats. Retrieved 2020-01-09.
  17. ^ Davis, James (16 March 2021). "STAR Voting Helps Create Smooth Party Elections". Multnomah County Democrats.
  18. ^ Hill, Christian. "STAR voting returns with dual initiative push". The Register-Guard. Archived from the original on 2020-09-25. Retrieved 2020-01-09.
  19. ^ "Campaigns". STAR Voting.
  20. ^ "Death STAR". July 29, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  21. ^ "Independent Party of OR to use STAR Voting for Primary Election!". STAR Voting Email Campaign Archive. April 7, 2020. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  22. ^ "STAR VOTING ANNOUNCEMENT". Independent Party of Oregon. Salem. 2020-04-07. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  23. ^ "Independent Party of Oregon to utilize STAR system for primary". Herald and News. Apr 8, 2020. Retrieved 2020-04-10.
  24. ^ a b "Case Studies". STAR Voting.
  25. ^ "Libertarian Party of Oregon: 2022 Primary Elections Results". 11 March 2022.
  26. ^ "Q: How are ties in STAR Voting broken?". STAR Voting.
  27. ^ "Single or Multi-Winner STAR?". STAR Voting.
  28. ^ "Proportional STAR Voting". STAR Voting.
  29. ^ "Allocated Score - electowiki".
  30. ^ "Sequentially Spent Score". electowiki. April 30, 2022.
  31. ^ "Sequentially Spent Score". 13 February 2022.
  32. ^ In a 2-candidate STAR voting election, both candidates automatically go to the runoff, where the voter will either give no support or full support to each of the candidates.
  33. ^ "An analysis of FairVote's Look at STAR Voting". Equal Vote Coalition. Retrieved 2018-07-21. STAR is monotonic, IRV is not.
  34. ^ D R Woodall, "Monotonicity and Single-Seat Election Rules", Voting matters, Issue 6, 1996. This article calls the monotonicity criterion in question "mono-raise", and also gives other monotonicity criteria that STAR voting fails. For instance, STAR voting violates "mono-raise-delete", defined as "A candidate X should not be harmed if X is raised on some ballots and all candidates now below X on those ballots are deleted from them". In the case of STAR, "deleted" would mean "given the lowest score"; deleting a candidate Y could change the runoff from X vs Y, which X wins, to X vs Z, which Z wins.
  35. ^ Laslier, J.-F. (2006) "Strategic approval voting in a large electorate," IDEP Working Papers No. 405 (Marseille, France: Institut D'Economie Publique)
  36. ^ Because of the limited number of scores available, when there are over 6 candidates voters who have a sincere preference are still forced to rate some candidates equal. Thus it is technically possible for a candidate to be a Condorcet and/or majority loser by sincere preferences, but not so going by ballots; and thus to win. However, this would not be true for a theoretical version of STAR where ratings are real numbers rather than whole numbers; and under any voter model where each voter is equally likely to express each successive preference, the probability of a Condorcet/majority loser winning under STAR approaches zero with even moderate numbers of voters.
  37. ^ League of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund. A Review of Various Election Methods (PDF) (Updated February 2020 ed.).
  38. ^ a b "Farewell to Pass/Fail". STAR Voting. Archived from the original on 2018-07-21. Retrieved 2018-07-21. STAR Voting actually fails both Later No Harm and The Favorite Betrayal Criterion - but hear us out! This is actually also desirable. ... We believe it is better for a system to fail two opposing criteria and in doing so mitigate the ways in which it fails both
  39. ^ Richie, Rob (July 2018). "Explaining FairVote's position on STAR Voting". FairVote.
  40. ^ Frohnmayer481.60scon, Mark. "Our take on FairVote's position regarding STAR Voting". Equal Vote Coalition.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  41. ^ "The Relaxed Majority Criterion". Equal Vote Coalition.

External links[edit]