I didn't see anywhere that it specifies whether or not we have to use all of our votes in elections. I know that process for determining winners is STV, under which it is possible to include voters who didn't use all of their votes, but I just wanted to verify that my votes would still be used.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1, I was wondering about it as well. $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    Mar 29, 2015 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that this should be stated directly. However notice that using three votes results getting a badge, so it is a tough decision to make (just joking). $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Mar 30, 2015 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Haha, you can always wait for another election where there are 3 candidates you are actually interested in winning. $\endgroup$
    – bdeonovic
    Mar 30, 2015 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ See also this in relation to the currect SO election. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Apr 20, 2015 at 23:30

2 Answers 2


Yes, your votes will still be used. You may cast just one or just two out of the three you are allowed.

I base this conclusion on having analyzed (in detail) the results of some other elections. A close look at some of those data summaries and visualizations will show that some voters cast incomplete ballots but their votes contributed to the results.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ excellent snooping whuber $\endgroup$
    – bdeonovic
    Mar 29, 2015 at 23:36
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    $\begingroup$ +1 I've also looked at the votes in previous elections; it's definitely the case that users can vote for fewer than 3 candidates and still have their votes count. I've also just participated in a real-world election that uses a similar system... but has vastly more candidates. It used to be the case in the real-world one that you had to order the entire field of candidates -- well over a hundred of them (but nowadays, fortunately, the requirement is reduced to a smaller number). [Well, there was a shortcut that involved only indicating one thing, but it involved a compromise I could not bear.] $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Mar 30, 2015 at 1:48

Just to confirm -- votes that had only one first choice, or only a first and second choice were present in the election that was held ... and were used in the way you would hope.

Here's a little piece out of the (publicly available) data file, with spaces added, some column headings not present in the original (for context) and some added comments:

num   1st    2nd  3rd    terminal
votes choice ch.  ch.      zero

1       1     2     3       0       # voted for candidate 1,2 and 3 in that order
1       2     3     4       0       # voted for candidate 2,3 and 4 in that order
1       1     0     0       0       # only voted for candidate 1           (A)
1       1     0     0       0
1       1     2     0       0       # only voted for candidates 1 and 2    (B)
1       1     2     4       0
1       1     3     2       0

Who is "candidate 1" and so on is given by the order of the names near the end of the vote file.

The first column is always 1 for SE elections (identical votes are not aggregated, but the file format supports such aggregation), and the last column is always 0.

That these were used can be seen by the Exhausted vote in round 2 here. That's the votes like the one I marked "(A)" contributing 38% of their vote toward electing one moderator, but then wasting the remainder of their vote, by then failing to express any opinion about the later candidates in respect of the second open position. While it's possible some of them might have felt there was no way to distinguish the later candidates' suitability, I suspect the main cause for many of those is simply lack of understanding of how single transferrable voting (STV) works.

People who voted "1 2 0" or something like that (such as "(B)" in the above) used more of their vote. There was no third round (but it was possible there could have been one), so the absence of their third choice had no impact at all, and as it happened, no votes other than "1 0 0" were prematurely exhausted.

They all counted as they should for an STV election.


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