Voices & Choices

New Hampshire piles on the problems of plurality voting primaries

New Hampshire piles on the problems of plurality voting primaries

The threat of a low plurality win in New Hampshire’s high-profile 1st Congressional District primary didn’t end as badly as it could have.

Despite assessments that there was no clear frontrunner among the 11 candidates jockeying for the Democratic nomination, Manchester’s Executive Councilor Chris Pappas won Tuesday with a decisive 12 percent lead over second-place finisher Maura Sullivan.

But Pappas still fell short of securing support from a majority of district voters, instead finishing with 42 percent of the vote.

The six-way Republican primary also ended in a non-majoritarian outcome, with former police chief Eddie Edwards winning 48 percent of the vote compared to runner up Andy Sanborn’s 41 percent.

The outcome in November will make history, bringing either state’s first openly gay or African-American representative to Congress.

But in a swing district which could give Republicans a rare opportunity to take a district from the Democrats, the fact that neither party’s nominee secured at least 50 percent of the vote is concerning.

And while the GOP faces a much harder challenge to unseat three-term Democratic Rep. Anne Kuster in the 2nd Congressional District, the seven-way primary was decided by a single percentage point. State lawmaker Steven Negron bested second place finisher Stewart Levenson with a dismal 26 percent of votes with a win that wasn’t called until mid-morning Wednesday.

The problematic nature of New Hampshire’s non-majoritarian outcomes becomes even more alarming considering the number of other low plurality wins in the 2018 primaries.

The growing pile of problems with plurality elections grows points to the need for ranked choice voting, which offers the best way to ensure representatives win with the broadest possible support of their constituents.

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