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Aug 23, 2023

Rank-based voting uncovered: single transferable vote vs. positional voting 

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Evaluation is one of the main stages of awards program management and needs to be tweaked to perfection to both match your program’s needs and strengthen its reputation with transparency and objectivity. 

To that end, we at Evalato have made sure to give you enough voting opportunities, including single transferable vote (STV) and positional voting. Since both are rank-based, we’ve taken the time to pick them apart so that you can choose the one that will serve your program’s purposes best. Read on!  


Both STV and positional voting were introduced with Evalato’s evaluation suite overhaul, to cater to programs with multiple judges where reaching a consensus could be a challenge. To choose one over the other, however, you need to know what each one does. 

What is STV?

With STV, a vote is initially allocated to the voter’s first preference, however, it may be transferred (hence the name) to an alternate preference if the first-choice application is eliminated or has received surplus votes. 

So, what’s so great about STV? Let’s see: 

  • Votes aren’t “wasted,” but rather, are transferred to the voter’s second-best choice, or third-best, etc;
  • Greater voting choice — judges don’t just select a winner, but rank preferences; 
  • Practically zero chances of unfavorable applications winning or moving on to the next round since those will be ranked last and easily eliminated. 

What is positional voting? 

With positional voting, each voter preference is allotted a specific fixed weighting. The weighting is based on the Borda count where each application gets a number of points corresponding to the number of candidates ranked lower. The applications with the most points overall win. 

As such, positional voting has the following benefits: 

  • It usually yields the best consensus winner since it takes into account voters’ preferences apart from their first choice; 
  • Voters get to express a detailed set of preferences
  • It still utilizes all voter preferences, even if it does not transfer the votes.  

So, to sum up, while both STV and positional voting are rank-based and do not “waste” votes, with the former, the vote may be transferred to another preference, while with the latter, each preference contributes points to determine the winner. 

Examples of STV and positional voting 

To give you a bit more context, let’s see where these types of voting are used. STV is applied for various elections in much of the English-speaking world, mostly local government elections in the US, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, to ensure more proportional representation. 

Borda count-based positional voting meanwhile is the method of choice for the Eurovision Song Contest, the Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award, and the Heisman Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding player in college football. 

Which one should you choose for your program?

The above examples have probably clued you in that STV is the better choice for single or multi-winner outcomes. So, you can go with it for your community awards, or if you manage grant programs or scholarships where you only need to know which candidate is selected, and the evaluators need to be in agreement.

Positional voting meanwhile is better for producing a ranking, where you still need to convert personal preferences into ranking, such as powerists and indices. It is also a good choice for calls for abstracts and speakers where this type of voting can help you determine the order of publication or presentation at a conference. 

Both methods, however, ensure that the winners — multiple or single — have broad voter support and are generally good consensus choices

Evaluation variety 

Regardless of which voting type you decide to go with for your online award program management, Evalato enables you to set your own unique evaluation process with:

  • Multiple rounds that let you accommodate a voting process of any length and complexity; 
  • Combination of voting types — can’t decide between STV and positional voting? You can use both, as well as any other of Evalato’s 6 voting types, which also feature score voting, popularity voting, simple review, and points voting; 
  • A mix of judging & public voting — you can have both a jury of experts and the public decide on the winners. The Evalato judging software further gives you the option to set those up in consecutive rounds (in any order) or only earmark certain categories for either type of voting;   
  • Voter-friendly evaluation — both your judges and the public will get a user-friendly portal, accessible from any device to comfortably view the applications assigned to them; 
  • Options for instructions in portals — both STV and positional voting have the disadvantage of not being the easiest to understand for everyone, however, Evalato takes care of that problem allowing you to upload detailed instructions for your voters;  
  • Reliable calculation of results — regardless of the voting method you choose, you can rely on Evalato to calculate the results and present you with the most deserving winners; 
  • Real-time results and voting progress — you get a real-time view of results and winners, so you are always on top of things.

At the end of the day 

Both STV and positional voting are reliable evaluation methods and while both serve different purposes, Evalato can help you set each (or even both) with minimum effort on your part. Want to give it a go? Try Evalato for free or book a demo to see our stellar awards management software in action. 

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