Is scoring subjective?

In STAR Voting, scores given are not subjective like a 5 star rating you might give on a movie or restaurant review. The difference is that in STAR Voting you aren't just rating each option independently, you're comparing a set of options, showing your favorite, last choice, preferences, and degree of support relative to the other options



In STAR Voting, voters score their candidates from 0 stars (worst) to 5 stars (best).

  • Give your favorite five stars.
  • Give your last choice zero or leave blank.
  • Equal scores are allowed.
  • Score other candidates as desired.

These instructions are actually written into the STAR Voting ballot initiative language to ensure that real world voters will have clear, consistent, and accessible instructions on how to vote in multiple languages. While the exact wording is left to the jurisdiction adopting the method, the law itself will ensure that the correct information is clearly written on the ballot itself so voters know what to do.

* Specific recommendations for wording and other ballot design considerations can also be found in the STAR Voting Technical Specifications


The 5 star ballot allows voters to clearly show exactly how they feel about the candidates:

Voters can honestly show their favorite, their last choice, their preference order, and also how much or how little they like their candidates. A 5 star ballot works well for "traditional" voters who only have one candidate they like and who strongly dislike everyone else. It also works well for voters who have a clear preference order, (5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0). It also works great if voters have some candidates they like equally (5, 3, 3, 1, 1, 0), or if their preferences aren't evenly distributed (5, 5, 4, 1, 1, 0).


Incentivizing honest voting

Peer Reviewed studies modeling voter behavior have demonstrated that in STAR Voting, the instructions aren't just recommended, they're actively incentivized. This means that if voters want to maximize the power of their vote, they should follow the instructions: give your favorite 5 stars, give your last choice zero, and show your honest preferences. Having incentives align with honest voting is a huge advantage that means that over time we can expect voter behavior to get more consistent and more honest, unlike under the current system. 


What if voters don't follow the instructions?

In STAR Voting, if voters don't follow the instructions (don't give anyone a 5 or a 0), then in effect what they are showing is that they don't have as strong a preference as someone else who used the full scale. This is absolutely allowed and it'll be counted as the voter intended, it's just not going to do as much to help their favorite pull ahead of their last choice as if they'd showed a stronger preference.

Regardless, in STAR Voting, the automatic runoff round ensures that your vote is just as powerful as anyone else's no matter how you scored the finalists.

For example, a voter who scored the finalists 0 stars and 1 star in the scoring round will still have their full vote count for the finalist they scored higher. In other words, the STAR Voting automatic runoff works exactly like a top two runoff election: each voter ultimately counts as one fully powerful vote for the finalist they prefer. They only difference is you don't have to vote again. It's automatic. 

In summary, no matter how you choose to vote in STAR Voting, it'll be counted, and it'll be just as powerful as anyone else's vote.


What if voters are strategic or try to game the system? 

Peer Reviewed studies are clear that strategic voting in STAR Voting isn't effective or incentivised. In particular, the most harmful types of strategic voting are prevented by STAR Voting. This includes strategically voting for someone other than your favorite as your top choice, trying to bury the competition, and just giving your favorite 5 stars and leaving everybody else blank. These strategies are more likely to backfire than to help a voter who is dishonestly voting to try and get an edge.

Moreover, studies are clear that even if voters are strategic at first and take some time to unlearn old behaviors, the results for STAR Voting still outperform other voting methods. 

Why Rating not Ranking?

4. Lastly, and most importantly, ranked systems can waste large numbers of votes due to voter errors when equal rankings are not allowed.

Ranked Choice Voting as currently proposed simply cannot handle equal rankings. This comes down to the way ballots are tallied in elimination rounds with votes transferred to a voters next choice if possible. There is a better way to tally a ranked ballot that does allow equal rankings, but this is an entirely different voting methods, not just a modification.


Ranked Choice Voting and Voter Error Issues

In STAR Voting, voters who like candidates equally can show that on their ballot with no problems.

In Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) if you rank candidates equally it can void your ballot. This is known as an "overvote" and it's essentially the same thing as voting for two candidates in the current system. Rates of overvoting and ballots voided in RCV are much higher than with traditional voting and much higher than under other systems. 

Alarmingly, rates of voided ballots are consistently higher for already at-risk populations, including voters of color, lower-income voters, lower-education voters, and voters who don't speak English as a first language. This is prevented by systems that allow equal rankings, but Ranked Choice Voting does not.

"Higher counts of [ranked choice] overvotes were also found, at times, among San Francisco communities with more Latino residents (Neely and Cook 2008), something shown in a similar analysis of voters in Los Angeles (Sinclair and Alvarez 2004), and in areas with more foreignborn residents."

"What has not changed is the nature of the discrepancies in who tends to overvote: consistently, precincts where more African-Americans reside are more likely to collect overvoted, voided ballots. And this often occurs where more Latino, elderly, foreign-born, and less wealthy folks live."

Another common type of voter error in RCV (that's not an issue in STAR) is skipped rankings. Skipped ranks in RCV often result in voided ballots depending on the jurisdiction and its level of technological sophistication. 

The third type of RCV voter error is the only kind that may also apply to STAR Voting. It's also the least common of the three error types. This is if a voter gave multiple scores or ranks to one candidate. In many cases, voter intent can be determined on the ballot, but sometimes that's not possible. No system can prevent all types of voter error, but STAR Voting keeps the possible types of voter error to a minimum. 





Source: Constitutional Political Economy. STAR Voting, Equality of Voice, and Voter Satisfaction: Considerations for Voting Reform

Source: Overvoting and the Equality of Voice under Instant-Runoff Voting in San Francisco. Francis Neely and Jason McDaniel, San Francisco State University.

Source: David Kimball. University of Missouri, St. Louis. Conference on Electoral System Reform. Stanford University. March 14-15, 2014. Voter Participation with RCV in the USA 

Source:  Miller, G. A. (1956). "The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information"