Wichita, Kansas just held the general election for a contentious mayoral race this Tuesday. While the results are still being finalized, with 100% of precincts reporting, it appears that neither of the two candidates achieved a majority -- a central tenet of our democratic government.
The first round of the election (termed a nonpartisan primary) was in August. The primary’s top two vote earners, incumbent Jeff Longwell and challenger Brandon Whipple, then advanced to the November general election. This two-step process is meant to ensure that one individual gets at least 50% of the vote. However, rather than voting for Longwell or Whipple, 17.6% of the city’s voters favored a write-in, with the bulk going to a candidate who had finished third in the primary, Wichita businessman Lyndy Wells. This resulted in Whipple winning with just 46.1% of the vote under a system meant to ensure a majority — greater than 50 percent — outcome.
This election spanning months and ultimately resulting in a plurality could have been condensed into a more cost-effective, single race with a majority mandate through the use of ranked choice voting (RCV). The State of Kansas will be using RCV for its Democratic presidential primaries in 2020, and would benefit from expanding the system to municipal elections as well.