Jen Scott in the Forest Lake Times
Today, in most Minnesota elections, a candidate need not earn majority support to win; they can win with less, and sometimes far less, than 50% of the vote. When someone wins with less than a majority, it is called winning “by plurality vote.”
At first blush this may seem reasonable, perhaps even appropriate. But it is neither.
The trouble with “plurality-wins” is that, when three, four or more candidates run, winners are declared the result may not represent will of the people in that community. Consider an election in which a candidate wins with 35% of the vote and 65% of the community did not vote for that candidate.
This dynamic does a huge disservice to voters. First, it results in all voters having fewer genuine, good faith options on their ballots as independent candidates do not run for fear of being called the “spoiler.” Second, it has led to a rash of candidates running explicitly to split votes so their candidates can win without majority support.
If we want candidates to earn at least 50% to win, then we would need either traditional runoffs or ranked choice voting (a.k.a. instant runoff voting). While both would be improvements on our current system, ranked choice voting seems the best option because it combines the election on one ranked ballot on election day in November saving both time and money. It promotes positive campaigns and has very positive reviews by the voters, candidates, and officials that use it.
Jen Scott, Forest Lake
Rank Your Vote is a project of FairVote Minnesota, a nonprofit, nonpartisan election reform organization that engages hundreds of volunteers and thousands of supporters. Together, we work for a stronger democracy through public education and advocacy for Ranked Choice Voting, a system proven to be more inclusive, democratic, and representative than our current plurality electoral system. We educate and support candidates, elected officials, cities and voters in preparation for RCV elections.