Voices & Choices

Gubernatorial Plurality Wins Highlight the Need for RCV

Gubernatorial Plurality Wins Highlight the Need for RCV

Whenever a candidate takes office without support from a majority of voters,  we are left wondering if things might have turned out differently if the race were narrowed to a contest between the two frontrunners. In high-profile and consequential elections like governors’ races, clear majority backing helps create broad mandates for governing and encourages legislators to work with state leadership to serve the people’s interests. Unfortunately, from 1946 to 2021, 128 of the 1,092 gubernatorial elections nationwide - or 11.7 % - were won by candidates who won less than 50 percent of the vote. If these races had used ranked choice voting (RCV), voters who backed less popular candidates would have the option to express a preference between the top two candidates, providing consensus to the eventual winner. 

Since 1946, no gubernatorial general election has been won with less than 35 percent of the vote. The following is a list of every gubernatorial general election over that span won with less than a majority of votes cast, with the state, year, elected winner and winning percentage. Notable recent plurality wins where RCV might have impacted the result include Kentucky in 2019 and Kansas in 2018.

Majority rule paired (with protections for minority rights) is a fundamental tenet of modern American democracy. Improving our elections with ranked choice voting to ensure majority support for elected officials like state governors is an important step toward achieving the promise of a representative republic. 

Download this data in Excel to sort by different fields.

 

Plurality Winners in Gubernatorial Races 1946-2021 (128 total)

Won with 35.0-39.9% (14)

 State

 Year

 Winner

 Winning %

 Rhode Island

 2010

 Lincoln Chafee

 36.10%

 Maine

 2010

 Paul LePage

 38.20%

 Maine

 2006

 John Baldacci

 38.11%

 Texas

 2006

 Rick Perry

 39.03%

 Minnesota

 1998

 Jesse Ventura

 36.99%

 Maine

 1994

 Angus King

 35.40%

 Connecticut

 1994

 John G. Rowland

 36.20%

 Hawaii

 1994

 Benjamin J. Cayetano

 36.60%

 Alaska

 1990

 Walter J. Hickel

 38.90%

 Arizona

 1986

 Evan Mecham

 39.70%

 Maine

 1986

 John R. McKernan Jr.

 39.90%

 Alaska

 1978

 Jay S. Hammond

 39.10%

 Maine

 1974

 James B. Longley

 39.10%

 Utah

 1956

 George Dewey Clyde

 38.20%

 

Won with 40.0-44.9% (12)

 State

 Year

 Winner

 Winning %

 Rhode Island

 2014

 Gina Raimondo

 40.80%

 Minnesota

 2010

 Mark Dayton

 43.70%

 Oklahoma

 2002

 Brad Henry

 43.27%

 Minnesota

 2002

 Tim Pawlenty

 44.37%

 Vermont*

 2002

 Jim Douglas

 44.94%

 Alaska

 1994

 Tony Knowles

 41.10%

 Utah

 1992

 Michael O. Leavitt

 42.20%

 Connecticut

 1990

 Lowell P. Weicker Jr.

 40.40%

 Utah

 1988

 Norman H. Bangerter

 40.10%

 New Hampshire

 1972

 Meldrim Thomson Jr.

 41.40%

 Idaho

 1966

 Don Samuelson

 41.40%

 New York

 1966

 Nelson A. Rockefeller

 44.60%

 

Won with 45.0-49.9% (102)

 State

 Year

 Winner

 Winning %

 Kentucky

 2019

 Andy Beshear

 49.20%

 Connecticut

 2018

 Ned Lamont

 49.37%

 Florida

 2018

 Ron DeSantis

 49.59%

 Kansas

 2018

 Laura Kelly

 48.01%

 Nevada

 2018

 Steve Sisolak

 49.39%

 Wisconsin

 2018

 Tony Evers

 49.54%

 New Hampshire

 2016

 Chris Sununu

 48.84%

 North Carolina

 2016

 Roy Cooper

 49.02%

 West Virginia

 2016

 Jim Justice

 49.09%

 Vermont

 2014

 Peter Shumlin

 46.40%

 Alaska

 2014

 Bill Walker

 48.10%

 Florida

 2014

 Rick Scott

 48.10%

 Maine

 2014

 Paul Le Page

 48.20%

 Massachusetts

 2014

 Charlie Baker

 48.40%

 Colorado

 2014

 John Hickenlooper

 49.30%

 Hawaii

 2014

 David Ige

 49.50%

 Kansas

 2014

 Sam Brownback

 49.80%

 Oregon

 2014

 John Kitzhaber

 49.30%

 Virginia

 2013

 Terry McAuliffe

 47.80%

 Indiana

 2012

 Mike Pence

 49.59%

 Montana

 2012

 Steve Bullock

 49.03%

 West Virginia

 2011

 Earl Ray Tomblin

 49.60%

 Illinois

 2010

 Patrick J. Quinn

 46.80%

 Massachusetts

 2010

 Deval Patrick

 48.50%

 Florida

 2010

 Rick Scott

 48.90%

 Ohio

 2010

 John Kasich

 49.00%

 Oregon

 2010

 John Kitzhaber

 49.40%

 Connecticut

 2010

 Dan Malloy

 49.50%

 Vermont*

 2010

 Peter Shumlin

 49.60%

 New Jersey

 2009

 Chris Christie

 48.46%

 Minnesota

 2006

 Tim Pawlenty

 46.69%

 Nevada

 2006

 Jim Gibbons

 47.93%

 Alaska

 2006

 Sarah Palin

 48.33%

 Illinois

 2006

 Rod Blagojevich

 49.80%

 Washington

 2004

 Christine Gregoire

 48.87%

 California

 2003

 Arnold Schwarzenegger

 48.58%

 Wisconsin

 2002

 Jim Doyle

 45.09%

 Maine

 2002

 John Baldacci

 47.15%

 California

 2002

 Gray Davis

 47.26%

 Arizona

 2002

 Janet Napolitano

 48.74%

 Oregon

 2002

 Ted Kulongoski

 49.03%

 Alabama

 2002

 Bob Riley

 49.17%

 New York

 2002

 George Pataki

 49.40%

 Massachusetts

 2002

 Mitt Romney

 49.77%

 Wyoming

 2002

 Dave Freudenthal

 49.96%

 New Hampshire

 2000

 Jeanne Shaheen

 48.74%

 Missouri

 2000

 Bob Holden

 49.12%

 Mississippi*

 1999

 Ronnie Musgrove

 49.62%

 Colorado

 1998

 Bill Owens

 49.06%

 New Jersey

 1997

 Christine Todd Whitman

 46.90%

 Pennsylvania

 1994

 Tom Ridge

 45.40%

 Oklahoma

 1994

 Frank Keating

 46.90%

 Rhode Island

 1994

 Lincoln C. Almond

 47.40%

 New York

 1994

 George E. Pataki

 48.80%

 New Mexico

 1994

 Gary E. Johnson

 49.80%

 New Jersey

 1993

 Christine Todd Whitman

 49.30%

 Oregon

 1990

 Barbara Roberts

 45.70%

 Maine

 1990

 John R. McKernan Jr.

 46.70%

 Kansas

 1990

 Joan Finney

 48.60%

 California

 1990

 Pete Wilson

 49.20%

 Texas

 1990

 Ann W. Richards

 49.50%

 Arizona

 1990

 Fife Symington

 49.60%

 Minnesota

 1990

 Arne Carlson

 49.60%

 Michigan

 1990

 John Engler

 49.80%

 Nebraska

 1990

 Ben Nelson

 49.90%

 Vermont*

 1986

 Madeleine M. Kunin

 47.00%

 Alaska

 1986

 Steve C. Cowper

 47.30%

 Oklahoma

 1986

 Henry L. Bellmon

 47.50%

 Idaho

 1986

 Cecil D. Andrus

 49.90%

 Hawaii

 1982

 George Ariyoshi

 45.20%

 Alaska

 1982

 Bill Sheffield

 46.10%

 California

 1982

 George Deukmejian

 49.30%

 Illinois

 1982

 James R. Thompson

 49.40%

 New Jersey

 1981

 Thomas H. Kean

 49.50%

 Maine

 1978

 Joseph E. Brennan

 47.70%

 Ohio

 1978

 James A. Rhodes

 49.30%

 Kansas

 1978

 John Carlin

 49.40%

 New Hampshire

 1978

 Hugh J. Gallen

 49.40%

 Texas

 1978

 William P. Clements

 49.96%

 Alaska

 1974

 Jay S. Hammond

 47.70%

 Ohio

 1974

 James A. Rhodes

 48.60%

 Kansas

 1974

 Robert F. Bennett

 49.50%

 New Mexico

 1974

 Jerry Apodaca

 49.90%

 Texas

 1972

 Dolph Briscoe

 47.90%

 New Hampshire

 1970

 Walter Peterson

 46.00%

 Nevada

 1970

 Mike O'Callaghan

 48.10%

 Oklahoma

 1970

 David Hall

 48.40%

 Georgia*

 1966

 Lester Maddox

 47.40%

 Maryland

 1966

 Spiro T. Agnew

 49.50%

 Alaska

 1966

 Walter J. Hickel

 50.00%

 Virginia

 1965

 Mills E. Godwin Jr.

 47.90%

 Minnesota

 1962

 Karl F. Rolvaag

 49.70%

 Massachusetts

 1962

 Endicott Peabody

 49.90%

 North Dakota

 1960

 William L. Guy

 49.40%

 Wyoming

 1958

 J. J. Hickey

 48.90%

 Connecticut

 1954

 Abraham A. Ribicoff

 49.50%

 New York

 1954

 Averell Harriman

 49.60%

 Massachusetts

 1952

 Christian A. Herter

 49.90%

 Michigan

 1952

 G. Mennen Williams

 49.96%

 Connecticut

 1950

 John D. Lodge

 49.70%

 Michigan

 1950

 G. Mennen Williams

 49.80%

 Connecticut

 1948

 Chester Bowles

 49.30%

 

*Denotes an election where the race was decided by the state legislature because of no majority

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