Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Plurality Problem: Finding a Majority Winner in the Wake of SB54



With the passage of SB54, Utah's caucus/convention method of determining how candidates get placed on ballot was paired with a parallel method where candidates can be placed on the ballot through a petition effort.  The changes are scheduled to take affect in 2016.


The old caucus/convention system provided one candidate per party by the time the general election came around.  In the event there was a contest at convention, a primary election would typically be held to select between the top two candidates vetted at convention.  However, with the new petition process coming on line, it may be possible for many candidates, even more than two from the same party, to be on a primary ballot.

The question then is what happens when you have more than two candidates on a ballot and the winning candidate receives less than a majority of the vote  (aka a plurality)?  Interestingly, 36 of the states in the U.S. have a plurality system in place and have no other process or mechanism for making sure the winning candidate receives a majority of the vote.  Yet, 14 other states do require a majority vote to win an election.

The question facing the Legislature this year is multi-faceted:

1.  Do we want to require a majority vote for a candidate to win an election?  Or are we fine with a candidate receiving less than a majority?

2.  If we want a majority winner, what method would be best to make that happen?

Our interim committee looked at several prospective methods used by other states to determine a winner in a case of plurality winners. One option includes a run-off election held between the top two candidates in the primary election.  Another option includes a 'ranked' voting system where voters prioritize multiple candidates.  A third, less appealing, option includes kicking a plurality result from the primary race back to the parties to determine a winner.

'Ranked' voting, often called Preferential Voting was one of the for fascinating options.  Here is a video that explains how it works in Australia:



Our committee has been tasked with making a recommendation to the Legislature on how we feel we should best handle the plurality question.  We will be discussing this issue for several months.  Regardless of our committee's final recommendation, elections are about to become a lot more interesting in Utah.  Campaigns starting in 2016 will look a lot different than they have in the past.




1 comment:

  1. Hi Jeremy, I was looking for images to use on a website about SB54/Utah's new nominating process and found your blog. Thank you for bringing up these pertinent ideas. I look forward to reading more of your perspectives!

    ReplyDelete

Welcome! Your comments and thoughts are greatly appreciated. Criticism, insights, questions and queries are always welcome. However, please be civil and composed in your presentation.