American Democracy Has a ‘Tyranny of the Minority’ Problem. Maine Has the Solution.

March 28, 2018
Kevin Johnson and Rob Richie

This article originally ran in the Daily Beast.

A ballot designed to show first, second, and third choices can lead to more mainstream candidates and less cantankerous politics.

Regardless of who wins in November, the 2018 House elections are already making history. The House primaries, which started on March 5 in Texas and will continue into September, rank as the most crowded ever. Already, more than 2,300 Republican and Democratic candidates are vying for office, nearly 50 percent more than the next highest year, the “Tea Party” election of 2010.

In part, this candidate surge is a sign of the resiliency of our democracy, of the upwelling of participation our system needs. But there’s a catch. The vast majority of these primaries will take place in states with single-round simple plurality voting, in which the candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of whether that candidate has majority support. Simple plurality works well enough when few candidates are running, but in crowded races it can easily result in winners with low percentages of the vote, who may not be preferred by, or even be in step with, the majority.

Photo by Enzwell - Own work based on the flag as seen in images behind the Governor of Maine as well as the state seal as found, CC BY-SA 4.0,