Voices & Choices

30% of Democratic votes in New Hampshire were "wasted"

30% of Democratic votes in New Hampshire were

New Hampshire’s presidential primaries certainly ran more smoothly than Iowa’s caucuses, but the results illustrate a pitfall of crowded fields the “wasted vote”. 

In a presidential nominating contest, it all comes down to the delegates. Only three Democrats received delegates this week in New Hampshire -- Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar. They qualified for delegates because they are the only three candidates who earned at least 15% of the vote in a congressional district or statewide. 

But 30% of voters selected one of the many other choices. 

https://e.infogram.com/aa6e6b70-02d4-466e-bc59-d264d9a44523?src=embedNew Hampshire Primary Results550639no0border:none;allowfullscreen

A voter who selected a non-viable candidate effectively had no say in the final outcome, meaning their vote had no bearing on the allocation of delegates. Our current voting method makes voters feel like they must support a front-runner, or else their voice won’t be heard. 

What about the tens of thousands of Elizabeth Warren voters? Or the Biden or Steyer voters? If they had known that their candidate would not achieve the threshold, wouldn’t some of them have liked to weigh in among the three viable candidates? 

Ranked choice voting (RCV) would allow exactly that scenario. Non-viable candidates are eliminated one at a time, and those voters’ ballots transfer to their next choice. For a voter, it’s as simple as 1-2-3, and it ensures that every vote counts and every voice is heard. 

I’m willing to predict that when the first RCV states hold their primaries, we’ll see far fewer wasted votes. Stay tuned for Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming in April, and Kansas in May.

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