‘Preferential Voting’ Is a Great Method for Dealing With Primary Elections With a Dozen or More Candidates

With over a dozen candidates now vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, I have a modest proposal. Let those states holding primaries do what Australia does for most of its elections and employ a preferential voting system.

Under such a system, voters rank the candidates in their order of preference. If no candidate receives at least 50% of the votes, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and the second choice of that candidate’s voters are counted. If that doesn’t produce 50% or more votes for any candidate, the candidate with the now lowest vote count is eliminated and those voters’ next favorite candidates receive their votes. And so it continues until one candidate receives at least 50% of the votes.

In 2016, there were 17 Republican primary candidates. If a preferenttial voting system had been utilized, Donald Trump probably would have won far fewer primaries and not won the Republican presidential nomination.

If done for the general election, this could encourage third-party candidates. Such a candidate couldn’t function as a spoiler, because if the top candidate does not get at least 50% of the votes, the third-party candidate is eliminated and his/her voters’ second choices are counted.

The State of Maine used this system, which they call “Ranked Choice Voting,” in the 2018 mid-term election and it caused the Republican incumbent, who got the most votes but not 50%, to lose to the Democratic candidate after a third candidate with the lowest number of votes was eliminated and his votes redistributed to his voters’ second choice. Not surprisingly, the Republicans in Maine’s legislature are now pressing to have the law repealed. Here’s a link to a TV news report on the controversy: