Letter: Preferential Voting

Letter to the Editor

Fifty-four percent of California’s voters approved an amendment to their constitution in 2010 requiring open primaries, where the top two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. They did so out of frustration with the partisanship of closed primaries, which had a history of nominating candidates with extreme views not supported by most voters. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 7-2 (Alioto and Scalia dissenting), that the top-two primary system was constitutional. Indications are that the top-two primary system has made elections more competitive and less partisan, but it needs to add a system of preferential voting to ensure that the ideas discussed by the top two candidates are ideas of greatest interest to the electorate. In preferential voting, the voter indicates his/her order of preference for each of their favorite three candidates from among those listed on the ballot so that if no candidate receives a majority of first preferences, the first and second preferences and—if necessary—third preferences may be counted together until one candidate obtains a majority. In the present instance, we have a congressional district where there are two conservatives and four moderate/liberal candidates who look competitive. The conservative-liberal split in the electorate’s primary election support could be 45 percent for the conservatives and 55 percent for the moderates/liberals. Without preferential voting, there is a good chance that the two conservatives will be the two top vote getters because the four moderates/liberals will have diluted each other’s possible support, keeping each one under 15 percent. Such a result would ensure that only conservative ideas will get discussed during the fall campaign, despite the fact that most voters in the district favored candidates championing moderate/liberal ideas. To ensure a government that is optimally responsive to constituents’ values aspirations, adopting preferential voting would seem to be a logical next step.

William McCarthy