In 2010, California voters approved a ballot measure establishing a Top Two primary system. Top Two replaced a system in which partisan primaries were followed by a general election among nominees of each party and independents. Under Top Two, all candidates compete against each other in the first preliminary election irrespective of party preferences. Voters have one vote, and the two candidates receiving the most votes advance to the general election, again irrespective of party preferences.
Our current method of electing the president is, to say it bluntly, unfair. Thanks to laws that allocate Electoral College votes on a winner-take-all basis, the great majority of Americans are ignored during the election for our country’s highest office. In 2012, all 253 of the campaign events with major party presidential and vice presidential candidates that took place after the Democratic National Convention were in just 12 states. From April 11 through Election Day on November 6, 99.6% of all advertising spending by the major party campaigns and their allies was in just 10 states.
Update: This report has now been updated to include additional analysis from the results of the 2012 general election, more details on FairVote's proposed solution: Top Four with ranked choice voting, and analysis based on comparison to California's use of Top Two in 2012.The Top Two primary system has drawn increasing attention as a way to reform our elections. Rather than have parties nominate candidates who then face off in a general election, it establishes two rounds of voting: the first a "preliminary" to reduce the field to two candidates and the second a final runoff between the top two finishers. Candidates pick their own party label, and that label has no impact on which candidates advance.Louisiana for years was the only state using a form of the system for both state and federal elections. Washington State started using the system in 2008. California implemented it in 2012, and Arizona voters may adopt it in a November 2012 ballot measure. This report looks at the impact of the Top Two primary in Washington State in the two and a half election cycles in which it has been used. The report focuses on state legislative elections, but also summarizes results to date in congressional and statewide elections.
This study was prompted by unusual results of a standard analysis of the ratio of party votes received compared to legislative seats won. Typically, in winner take all voting systems such as Vermont’s, there is a deviation from a one to one ratio, which overrepresents the largest party, and may be exaggerated further as the result of gerrymandering. Vermont’s Senatorial Districts are less prone to gerrymandering, being based largely on preexisting county boundaries. A superficial look at the Vermont 2000 election for governor raises a question.
There are inherent flaws in the plurality voting systems employed in most American elections with a single winner. Namely, plurality voting “can elect a candidate who receives the most first place votes but is strongly disfavored by a majority of the electorate” Dudum v. Arntz, 640 F.3d 1098, 1100 (9th Cir. 2011), a result that does not comport with democratic ideals. It seems patently wrong that a candidate whom the majority voted against should nonetheless represent that majority – even to the point that a majority of voters would see this candidate as their last choice.
Lawmakers in Missouri have recently passed a congressional redistricting plan that distorts the state’s political representation in favor of Republicans and institutionalizes a decade of uncompetitive, meaningless elections. While many pundits blame the state legislature for drawing a partisan gerrymander, the root of the worst problems associated with redistricting lies with winner-take-all elections. To address the structural impediments of winner-take-all, FairVote has created an alternative — what we call fair voting — for Missouri’s congressional elections.
Even after the passage of the14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, states, especially in the South, continued finding ways to bar African Americans from voting. Throughout the years the Supreme Court had struck down various voter suppression tactics such as grandfather clauses, white primaries, racial gerrymandering, and discriminatory application of voting tests.
Over the last few decades, presidential election outcomes within the majority of states have become more and more predictable, to the point that only ten states were considered competitive in the 2012 election. Due to the state-by-state winner-take-all method of allocating Electoral College votes, competitive states receive much more campaign attention than their non-competitive counterparts.
Ranked choice absentee ballots provide a legal and practical solution to the disenfranchisement of military and overseas voters in runoff elections. These ballots enable U.S. citizens covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA) to cast votes when the ballot turnaround time between first and second elections is short.