The recent primary election for president of the Board of Aldermen resulted in a narrow win for incumbent Lewis Reed. He won his fourth term with less than 40 percent of the vote. His two opponents, State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed and Alderwoman Megan Green, split more than 60 percent of the votes.
With more people voting against Reed than for him, some have questioned if there are other voting methods that would reflect a more accurate majority-vote win.
On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh explored alternative forms of voting with David Kimball, professor and Graduate Director of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Some methods include ranked -choice, proportional and cumulative voting.
About a dozen cities in the U.S. decide on their next elected official by using a ranked-choice system.
“I think ranked-choice voting is gaining popularity in America because it's a fairly simple alteration to our current voting rules. It's not a dramatic departure from the way we currently vote,” Kimball explained.
What would ranked-choice voting entail?
“So in election for mayor, for example, the ballot would give you a spot to check the name of the candidate you want for your first choice. And usually [in] the next column over, you can indicate your second choice, and then the next column, your third choice and so forth – so that voters can give a fuller expression of the candidates they prefer.
Then when the votes are counted … they start by counting the first choice votes only. And if a candidate has a majority, then that person wins and the election is over,” Kimball continued, “but if not, then they would eliminate the candidates who came in last place and reallocate those votes to the second choice of those voters and sort of keep doing that process until a candidate has a majority of the votes, and then that person is the winner.”
In many other democracies around the world, proportionate voting dictates the political outcome.
That is when “voters select their party on the ballot and then the votes are counted. If a party gets 35 percent of the votes then they're awarded 35 percent of the seats in parliament,” Kimball said.
Locally, the Ferguson-Florissant School District will be trying out a new system for their upcoming school board election: cumulative voting.
“This is used in elections where you’re electing multiple officers to the same body,” Kimball explained, stating that a constituent in this case would have more than one vote depending on how many candidates are on the ballot.
“With cumulative voting, you can concentrate your votes. So if you really like one candidate, you can have all three of your votes [go] to that one candidate – so you can accumulate your votes … and you can give more than one vote to a single candidate, if you like that person a lot,” he added.
Kimball concluded that no set of voting rules are perfect and all come with their set of drawbacks.
“I think we're learning more of the disadvantages of the voting rules that we've been using so often; [where] you can have a winner that doesn't get a majority,” he said.
“The current rules [also] often give a great advantage to the majority party or majority group in a community and make it hard for smaller groups to win representation.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Jon Lewis give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.