The current election interface advises:

You should only rank the candidates you think would make good moderators.

screenshot of election interface


I see two potential scenarios, both of which are dissatisfying:

  • The STV system is strictly implemented. In this case, this is bad advice. For example, if I think all candidates would make good moderators except Alice and Bob, but Alice is the lesser evil, I should rank Alice before Bob (but after everybody else). This matters if and only if all other candidates except Bob and Alice were either eliminated or have already won a seat. In this case, my preference may cause Alice to win the remaining seat instead of Bob – which is how things should be.

  • SE does not strictly adhere to the STV system, but may under some circumstances consider how often a candidate was ranked at all (as opposed to where they were ranked)¹. In this case, this would need clarification how this information is used, and many other guidelines on how the voting system works are inaccurate, etc.

¹ This would have to happen manually as OpenSTV should not deviate from the voting system.

  • The advice depends on the circumstance I guess. If there are 2 candidates and 1 position, the advice seems correct.
    – user707129
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 17:42
  • 1
    @Xnero: If there are two candidates for one position, the advice becomes irrelevant (which is better than wrong, but worse than correct). It doesn’t make a difference if you rank both or only rank your favourite.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 17:48
  • Meek STV (and a link to their blog post) is explained here: opavote.com/methods/single-transferable-vote#meek-stv - and here is an example from a prior election: opavote.com/results/5154809896239104
    – Rob
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 17:51
  • How does Meek STV work with a high number of exhausted votes if the last position hasn't been filled yet? That could be part of the explanation here.
    – Mast
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 18:11
  • 1
    @Mast: The thresholds are lowered to account for the exhausted votes. So no difference should be made here.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 18:17
  • 1
    There’s a deleted related question: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/366611/…. Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 18:21

3 Answers 3


We discussed this internally and agreed that it made sense to adjust the phrasing here.

We've made the following adjustments - they're not quite what y'all had suggested but I think they cover the concerns here.

We removed the "You should only rank the candidates you think would make good moderators." from both the sidebar and the blue "Election Phase" box and replaced it so that the full content in the sidebar reads:

Drag and drop or click your selections in order of preference, with the most desirable candidate as first choice. You do not need to rank all candidates.

Unranked candidates will not receive your vote.

We also added the "Unranked candidates will not receive your vote." to the blue box. Here's what the two sections look like now, with red freehand underlines to indicate the new text.

Screenshot of the Election page illustrating the two sections with the text above visible and underlined as described.

We did want to let voters know that they don't need to rank everyone if they don't wish to and explain the outcome in that case.


If the first case (STV is strictly implemented) holds, I propose the following alternative sentence to explain what will happen to unranked candidates or when it is okay to abstain from ranking candidates respectively:

If you do not rank one or more candidates, this has the same effect as ranking them last.

  • But it does not. Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 10:13
  • 3
    @user1271772: And where would be the difference?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 10:18
  • In one case the candidate(s) do not get your vote. Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 10:20
  • 2
    @user1271772: But “getting a vote” is an interpretation of the internals of the voting system not an effect (which is what I am talking about). Whether a candidate “gets my vote” or has to pass a lower threshold because my vote is exhausted makes no difference. Moreover, boiling it down to this tries to interpret a ranked-voting system in the frame of a more simple voting system, which is somewhat misleading.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 10:27
  • Call it what you want, but I prefer to rank the candidates that I think would be good moderators, and to not rank the other candidates at all. Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 10:32
  • 4
    @user1271772: Well, you can prefer as you please, but general guidance has to reflect how votes affect the outcome of an election.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 14:46
  • "has to" under what laws? Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 15:18

The advice reads to me as rank the candidates in order of preference that you personally believe would be good moderators.

Basically, if A and B and C are candidates, and you believe that they are all qualified, and you think C is better than A who is better than B, rank them as C, A and B.

  • 3
    Catija mentioned during the recent MathOverflow mod elections 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." Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 17:55
  • 1
    @TheAmplitwist: Okay, I've added a minor clarification.
    – Makoto
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 17:56
  • 1
    According to the question and the blog Bob shouldn't be chosen at all; otherwise he gets transferred votes.
    – Rob
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 17:58
  • 1
    @TheAmplitwist: “[…] 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.” – While technically correct, this misrepresents STV: Yes, your vote may go to that candidate, but only if all candidates you consider better have no chance of winning anymore or already won a seat.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 18:11
  • 3
    @Rob: That’s not how STV works. If I rank Bob last, there is no chance that he gets a transferred vote from me, because my vote only gets transferred to him if all other candidates are either eliminated or elected and that cannot happen. If I rank Alice before Bob (and Bob last), the only way she gets a transferred vote is if all candidates except Alice and Bob are eliminated or elected, in which case this is exactly what I want to happen.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 18:15
  • 2
    @Wrzlprmft If you have 6 candidates and you only rank 3 but you really only want 2 to win, your third person will get a vote if 1 and 2 are dropped. So, while unlikely, there are cases where a vote could go to an unwanted candidate.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 18:20
  • 12
    @Catija: As I said, your statement is technically correct, but misrepresenting STV. If all candidates I want to win are elected or eliminated and the election is still not over, I want my vote to decide between the remaining candidates. And that’s what my vote does and should do. Yes, my vote does count for an unwanted candidate, but there is nothing wrong with this, because that’s the best way it can count in this scenario.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 18:23
  • 3
    As an (extreme) example: if you think that none of the candidates would make a good moderator, then not voting would result in you not impacting the results. But by voting for candidates you don't think would make a good moderator, you can at least try to help the least bad one win.
    – smitop
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 1:46

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