Voices & Choices

Wyoming, Alaska primaries highlight problems with plurality elections

Wyoming, Alaska primaries highlight problems with plurality elections

Wyoming and Alaska voters took to the polls on Tuesday to decide their primary picks for a host of local, state and congressional seats. Crowded field of candidates meant that in some races, a victor won despite receiving less than 50 percent of the vote.

Take the six-way GOP primary for governor in Wyoming, for example. Treasurer Mark Gordon clinched the nomination with 33 only percent of the vote, a 7-point victory over his closest competitor, Foster Friess, whose second-place finish was credited in part to last-minute endorsement from President Donald Trump.

In Alaska’s lieutenant governor Republican primary, the crowded ballot of five candidates created a similar situation, with State Sen. Kevin Meyer earning just over 36 percent of the vote to second place finisher Edie Grunwald’s 27.3 percent.

In decidedly red states, these GOP winners might very well end up in office despite not having the support of even a majority of their own party’s voters.

We can’t say the outcome would have changed if voters had been able to rank their choices, rather than just selecting a single candidate. What we do know is that ranked choice voting offers the best way to make voters’ choices count and ensure a candidate wins with majority support.

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