Nearly three-fourths of voters in two key Florida Republican congressional primaries did not vote for the winning candidate, raising questions about the fairness of a plurality election system that enables candidates to win without majority support.
In the 3rd Congressional District, where incumbent Ted Yoho is retiring, ten candidates ran for the Republican nomination. Four different candidates received ten percent or more of the vote, and winning candidate Kat Cammack received approximately 25 percent, which means 75 percent of voters cast ballots for someone else. The Democratic primary for the seat was also decided with a plurality, as the winner received only 34.5 percent of the vote.
Florida elections would greatly benefit from #RankedChoiceVoting. No more perverse spoiler outcomes or expensive traditional runoffs! @NewsDaytonaBch @MarcBernierShow @rcvjax @rankmyvotefl @FLIEReform @FloridaGOP @FlaDems @FLSecofState @Fla_Pol @FlaPoliticsBlog @fredcostello— Tom Johnson (@BeingTomJohnson) August 19, 2020
In Florida’s 19th District Republican primary, the margin of victory was even smaller. Nine Republicans vied to fill the seat of retiring Representative Francis Rooney, and apparent victor Byron Donalds had just 22.6 percent of the vote, beating his closest opponent by fewer than 1,000 votes. The more than 50,000 voters who selected someone other than those two did not get to weigh in on the final decision because their second choice preferences were not accounted for in the plurality race.
Making matters worse, on Election Day voters in the 19th District received text messages falsely claiming that the leading candidate had dropped out, perhaps meant as a disinformation tactic to tilt the scales in an extremely close plurality election. FairVote has previously written about the ways plurality elections are subject to abuse, and this tactic adds to that list.
Both of these seats are considered safe for Republicans in the general election, making the GOP primaries the only real contest. Those very primaries, because they are plurality races, have just proven to be deeply flawed and unrepresentative. This broken election system has failed American voters again and again in recent years, with a primary in Tennessee serving as another recent egregious example of non-majority winners.
Ranked choice voting (RCV) is the best way to ensure that we elect officials who reflect a majority of voters. In both primaries and general elections, RCV narrows down the field to arrive at a consensus pick, and it avoids the expense and low-turnout seen in primary runoffs in other states. Moreover, if voters receive mixed messages about whether their favorite candidate has dropped out and aren’t sure what to believe, RCV solves the problem by allowing them to rank that candidate first and have their vote transferred to a second choice if that candidate exits the race.
Florida residents who want to help bring RCV to their state can get involved at Rank My Vote Florida.
Thinking Thursday—YOU are this movement to heal our politics, to make sure all voices are heard and valued, to get us all better quality candidates. Ask not what others are doing to fix it all, ask what YOU can do to help, and then do it. pic.twitter.com/RrSBm6Xtpx— Rank My Vote Florida (@rankmyvotefl) August 13, 2020