Our Constitutional Design
Elections in the United States of America were framed around a two-party system, in which the winner-takes-all. In this view, the winner of a democratic election should win more than half the votes.
No party, it was argued, could simply give up on half of the electorate, nor could a single party, it seemed, convincingly win a majority by putting forward anti-system candidates far outside the mainstream.
However, in many election cycles today, this is not the case. In Utah, and across the nation, candidates frequently win elections with less than 50 percent of the popular vote--especially in local and municipal elections.
Split Votes & Spoilers
A recent example of a Utah election won with less than a majority (40 percent) was the 2017 Provo mayoral race. The primary election started with nine candidates and ended showing a clear top three contenders - Sherrie Hall-Everett, Michelle Kaufusi and Odell Miner, who each received more than 20 percent of the vote. This should have set up a general election between Kaufusi and Hall-Everett, who'd beat Miner by just one percent to finish second. However, Miner did not drop out of the race, and instead filed as a write-in candidate and continued to campaign.
When the final election results came in, there was no majority winner.
Kaufusi only received 40 percent of the votes, allegedly, as critics are quick to point out, because Miner's 25 percent of the vote split votes away from Hall-Everett, who finished with 35 percent.
To many voters, this felt problematic and undemocratic.
This is an issue that Ranked Choice Voting is able to clearly and fairly address.
Instant Runoff & Real Majority
By allowing voters to rank the candidates on their ballot, Ranked Choice Voting allows an “instant runoff” to take place when no candidate receives more than half of the votes.
The candidate with the least support is eliminated and anyone who voted for them has their next choice counted instead. This process repeats until one candidate attains a majority of votes. This eliminates the “spoiler effect” from races in which there are more than two candidates for a single seat.
Provo could have avoided primaries and ran just one election. Also, it would have been clear who the winner was early on with everyone being able to rank all three top candidates.