Voters rank the candidates in their order of preference. They cannot rank the same candidate twice. (Arlington will only allow up to three candidates to be ranked, due to the limited capacity of its voting machines.)

In “single-winner” races like the one in Alaska, ballots are counted this way: First-choice votes are tallied, and the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Ballots that ranked the eliminated candidate first are reassigned to the voter’s second choice. The process is repeated, whittling down the field one by one until there’s a winner.

Counting votes in Arlington’s “multi-winner” contest is more complicated. Because multiple candidates are being selected, some of them may win the necessary number of votes in an earlier round. If a candidate reaches this winning threshold before anyone else, a fraction of the ballot that ranked the winning candidate first is passed onto the voter’s second (or third) choice.