Plurality Voting Disappoints Most Voters
A lot of voters are disappointed by the outcome of every election. You’d expect that of course, but in many elections, more than half of the voters voted for candidates who lost the election. How can that be? If the winning candidate gets a majority of the votes, that means fewer than half of voters voted for a losing candidate, right? Check out the table below of the results of the 2020 Indiana US Congress primaries to see the results of races where more than half the voters preferred someone other than the winning candidate.
2020 Indiana Congressional Primaries
% of Disappointed Voters
# of Candidates
Quite a few districts when you look at it. Indiana has nine Congressional Districts. In six of those districts (eight out of 18 races), the candidate “winning” the race was not the preferred candidate of significantly more than half the voters. And this is not a Democrat or Republican thing either. The phenomena occurred on both sides of the aisle.
So what’s going on here? Look at the last column on the table above. See how many candidates were running in these primaries? All across the state, lots of people thought they had better ideas, and could do a better job than all the other people running. And in all likelihood, some of those candidates who didn’t win were right — they did have better ideas and could do a better job than the person who won. Or at least many voters thought so.
But to win an election in Indiana, you don’t have to get a majority of the votes. You only have to get more votes than everybody else running, even if that turns out to be less than a majority of the votes cast. Whenever more than two people run in an election, chances are good that a majority of voters will prefer someone other than the election “winner.”
So what to do? If we want more people to run for office, so we can benefit from their ideas and leadership skills, does that mean we have to settle for unrepresentative elections? A solution to this dilemma is Ranked Choice Voting. This is a process where voters rank order their preferences among three or more candidates. In this way of voting, if a voter’s first choice comes in last, that voter’s vote is attributed to the voter’s second choice. And so on, until one candidate achieves a majority of the vote.
Better Ballot Indiana is an organization dedicated to bringing Ranked Choice Voting to Indiana. For further information about Ranked Choice Voting, see our RCV FAQ. For additional information about the Indiana 2020 Congressional Primaries, see the Indiana Secretary of State website.