Voices & Choices

Plurality Voting Causes Problems in South Korea

Plurality Voting Causes Problems in South Korea

Move over Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, sit down Gary Johnson and Jill Weiss. Plurality voting and the fear of “vote-splitting” in presidential elections aren’t just an American problem.

This week, votes for progressive candidate Sim Sang-jung may have swung the results in the closest-ever South Korean presidential election. Conservative Yoon Suk-yeol won the race with 48.56% of votes, with progressive Lee Jae-myung taking 47.83%. Sim earned 2.37% – or nearly three times more than the final margin between Yoon and Lee. 

Notably, Sim briefly dropped out of the race in January and then re-entered, while minor-party conservative Ahn Cheol-Soo dropped out early this month and endorsed Yoon. Of course, like many other minor-party candidates across the world, Sim ran on an important platform but may be best remembered as a spoiler. As the Korea Herald reports:

“We brought up inequality, climate crisis, political reform and multi-party politics as key topics and firmly established gender equality as a widespread social value,” Sim said [about her candidacy]. 

Of course, ranked choice voting would solve the spoiler problem in South Korea, just as it would here in the US. With RCV, voters can honestly rank candidates in order of choice. Voters know that if their first choice doesn’t win, their vote automatically counts for their next choice instead. 

This frees voters from worrying about how others will vote, and which candidates are more or less likely to win. It allows voters to express their true preferences and make their voices heard in the decisive part of a contest – in this case, Yoon vs. Lee – rather than “wasting” their vote.

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