Voices & Choices

Peruvian election shows the problems with two-stage runoffs

Peruvian election shows the problems with two-stage runoffs

On Sunday, June 6th, voters across Peru will get to choose between two candidates for President, both of whom received less than 20% of the vote just two months ago. 

Peru uses a winner take-all runoff system similar to the one used in the U.S. state of Georgia. If no candidate gets over 50% of the vote in an election in the first round, a second round is held between the two candidates who received the most votes. The winner of the runoff then wins the election.

Facing a crowded field, the two candidates who got the most votes in the first round were Pedro Castillo of the Free Peru party, who got 18.9% of the vote, and Keiko Fujimori of the Popular Force party, who got 13.4% of the vote. Over two-thirds of valid votes cast in the first round of the election were for more than a dozen other candidates who did not make the runoff. In fact, owing to political distrust combined with mandatory voting, the number of invalid and blank ballots was greater than the number of ballots cast either for Castillo or Fujimori

Peruvians will now cast a ballot choosing between two candidates who were not selected by 68% of voters in the April round. This presents a fundamental flaw in two-round runoff systems: voter choice is artificially narrowed to just two candidates after the first round. By contrast, in a ranked choice voting election, voters would get to rank their second, third, etc. choice candidates. This means that candidates with broad second or third choice support can win elections, whether it is Castillo, Fujimori, or another candidate who was not in top two, such as Rafael López Aliga or Hernado de Soto, both of who got over 11% of the vote, only slightly behind Fuijimori’s 13%.

Peruvian voters should not be limited to the candidates that only a combined 32% of the electorate has chosen. Instead, they should get to rank as many candidates as they wish in a ranked choice voting election, thereby allowing candidates with the broadest support to be elected President, and not just the candidates with a slight edge in first choice votes. 

This case in Peru shows the many limitations of two-round runoff systems, which are also used in Georgia and Louisiana. In addition, California and Washington use the similar Top 2 primary system. These states did this to ensure that candidates win with over 50% of the vote, an admirable goal better achieved by ranked choice voting.

More information on ranked choice voting and its advantages is available on our website.

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