Voices & Choices

2016 Senate Races and the End of Split Ticket Voting

2016 Senate Races and the End of Split Ticket Voting

In 2016, for the first time in American history, every US Senate race went to the winner of the state presidential vote, contradicting the widely held belief that negative views of Trump and Clinton would lead to large amounts of split ticket voting and electoral divergence. While many were surprised by the unprecedented nationalization of voting trends, this was the culmination of partisan trends that have been growing for decades.

Since 1992, Senate elections have been growing less competitive and more polarized. Every election since then has become easier to predict because of those changes, and furthermore, states have become remarkably consistent in remaining committed to the party that they chose in previous elections. Because of the growing partisanship and polarization that exists between states, voting districts, and counties, very few split-ticket elections occur in the U.S. FairVote’s Fair Representation Voting plan, which would allow voters to elect representatives from multi-winner districts through ranked choice voting, can help restore competitive elections in the U.S. House.

Ranked choice voting allows voters to express their honest and complete preferences without the need to vote strategically. Because of this, and the majority threshold required in RCV elections, this system would create more competitive elections and ensure that each winner represents a majority constituency. As for the polarization crisis, multi-winner districts would allow for more proportional representation in the House of Representatives allowing more moderates to win, as well as mavericks who hold non-traditional policy positions. With a larger bench of mavericks and moderates in the House, it is almost certain that many more of them would be elected to the Senate, bridging the polarization divide.

With these two innovations to our electoral system, the US Congress can become more representative of the American people, inviting higher voter turnout and a more efficient democratic government.  


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