Requiring a majority win in either primary or general election

In light of the removal of McCarthy as Speaker, last week I invoked my previous advocacy of a majority winner requirement for congressional elections. This week I want to highlight my more recent advocacy of the need to avoid plurality winners in partisan primaries, a point also made by Yuval Levin this morning in the New York Times. Moreover, FairVote has posted an analysis showing that six of the eight Republicans who voted to vacate McCarthy from the speakership won their first partisan primary election with less than a majority of votes. Gaetz himself barely won more than a third (36%) in his first primary.

As Levin argues, one way to ameliorate this for for the Republican Party itself to adopt ranked-choice voting for its own primaries, as it did in the primary that nominated Glen Youngkin for Virginia’s governor (a general election he subsequently won, as we know). Whether states, or Congress, can mandate political parties to use RCV for their primaries is an open question under the U.S. Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence in light of cases like California Democratic Party v. Jones, although a lower federal court rejected the Republican Party’s challenge to Maine’s requirement that the party use RCV for its primaries. But without violating the First Amendment, Congress could require members of Congress to win either a primary or general election by means of a majority rather than plurality vote, leaving to the states and the parties whether they wanted to enforce this rule in the contexts of primaries or general elections, or both, and whether they wanted to do so by means of a traditional separate runoff or instead a form of ranked-choice voting. That would provide the maximum flexibility for state-by-state experimentation while still avoiding the “double whammy” of a “double plurality winner system” as I describe in my Washington Post piece last year.

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