In certain ranked-voting systems, a first-preference vote is the individual voter's first choice amongst many. In certain ranked systems such as Instant-Runoff Voting or Single Transferable Vote, the first-preference for candidate/option are initially counted, and then, if necessary, this criterion is altered to allow for proportionality, and to carry surplus and/or ineffective votes to second and subsequent options depending on the system involved.
Ballots with no clear first preference are generally regarded as a spoilt vote. The term is also used in first past the post systems. First-preference votes are used by psephologists and the print and broadcast media to broadly describe the state of the parties at elections and the swing between elections. The term is much-used in Australian politics, where ranked voting has been universal at federal, state, and local levels since the 1920s.