There’s a bill in the legislature that impacts voting in Missouri.
It’s likely to be less controversial than a provision in the Clean Missouri ballot measure approved in the last election that changes the way voting districts are drawn up. Republican Governor Mike Parson has voiced his preference for that measure to be repealed.
The proposal filed to go before lawmakers in the new legislative session would require federal, state and local elections to use the Instant Runoff Voting Method (IRV).
The IRV bill from Republican Representative Dan Stacy of Blue Springs would establish a form of casting ballots in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. In the event that one candidate fails to achieve a 50 percent-plus-one majority, the candidate with the fewest number of first-preference rankings is eliminated and those votes are redistributed. The process is repeated until one candidate achieves the required majority.
The current system of plurality voting simply awards the victory to whoever receives the most votes. Stacy points out that often when more than two candidates are on the ballot, the winner doesn’t receive a 50 percent-plus-one majority.
“This bill allows us to always achieve a mandate candidate, a candidate who would represent the majority of the people,” says Stacy.
One of the biggest elections in the past 50 years where a three-candidate field led to the victor accumulating far less than 50 percent of the vote occurred in the 1992 presidential contest. Democrat Bill Clinton won the election with 43 percent of the vote, while incumbent Republican George H.W. Bush garnered 37 percent and Independent Ross Perot received 19 percent.
IRV began to gain traction in 2000 when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader siphoned off enough votes from Democrat Al Gore in Florida to enable Republican George W. Bush to take that state and the presidency.
There have also been cases in New Mexico where strong Green Party candidates have taken away Democratic votes to assure Republican victories in Democratic strongholds, and in Alaska where numerous conservative candidates have made it difficult for Republicans to win.
Representative Stacy notes primary elections also often advance winning candidates that get less than a majority of the votes. He suggests such an outcome could occur in the upcoming Kansas City mayoral race where seven candidates will face off in a non-partisan primary election. The top two candidates with the most votes will move on the general election in that contest.
Stacy also points to a local Kansas City area election where candidates won with small percentages of ballots cast in their favor.
“For school board in Lee’s Summit last year we had 11 candidates running for three seats,” Stacy says. “One of the candidates was seated with 13 percent of the vote because they won the plurality at that number.”
Maine became the first state in its June 2018 primary to implement IRV after the election and reelection of controversial Republican Governor Paul LePage with less than a majority of the vote. LePage was elected in 2010 with less than 40 percent of the vote and reelected four years later with less than 50 percent. Among other things, he’s been accused of using his power to delay implementation of the state’s Medicaid expansion, which passed on a ballot measure by a wide majority.
Cities are also gradually adopting the system. San Francisco used the method for the mayor’s race this year, and New York City is considering putting the measure on the ballot for its municipal elections.
Representative Stacy thinks the electorate will embrace a voting system that awards a candidate who receives a majority of votes.
“The voting public then can have greater confidence in their government that the people that they elect are people that they generally support,” says Stacy.
The former college music professor filed the same bill in 2018 but didn’t actively promote it to his legislative colleagues with November’s election on the horizon.
“Election reform was not a topic that was engendered during an election cycle, so I didn’t push it, really,” Stacy says. “I filed it but I didn’t spend a lot of time chasing it.”
IRV isn’t foolproof as the process could still result in a tie vote. Stacy contends such an outcome is a remote possibility, but his proposal still provides for the scenario. The bill calls for a coin toss if an election results in a tie.
The legislative session starts Wednesday in Jefferson City.
Copyright © 2018 · Missourinet