Top Two in Washington State

Posted on October 25, 2012

 Since 2008, Washington State has used the “Top Two” system for its congressional, state executive, and state legislative elections. This report analyzes the election results of the three cycles conducted under Top Two, finding that Top Two generally limits voter choice with little corollary benefit, including limiting nearly every general election to one member each of the major parties who easily advanced from the preliminary. The system also suffers from vulnerability to split vote or “spoiler” outcomes, as well as variable turnout issues common in systems based on multiple rounds of elections. Fortunately, these issues can be easily resolved while retaining Top Two’s essential characteristic (every voter being able to vote for every candidate in every election) by simply advancing four candidates to the general election instead of two and then conducting the general election by ranked choice voting.

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