State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: third parties

Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting System is in Trouble

By: Eric Reid

In 2016, voters in Maine decided to become the first state in the nation to adopt a ranked-choice voting system for state and federal elections.

Most voting systems in the United States are what is called “First Past the Post” system or the “Winner Takes All” system. In this system, the candidate who receives the most votes or a plurality wins the election.  Maine’s new system, also known as “instant runoff”, only applies in races with three or more candidates. At the ballot box, a voter would rank candidates from most-favored to least-favored according to his or her preference. If a candidate got a majority of first-placed votes, then that candidate wins. If, however, no candidate received a majority of first-placed votes, then the least-ranked candidate is dropped and the process begins again. Those voters who picked the dropped candidate would then have their votes reallocated, and the process would cycle until a candidate finally won. For example, in an election with ten candidates, a voter would rank each candidate once from one to ten. The candidate that had the most negative votes would be removed, and the votes reallocated to reflect the dropped candidate. A candidate is dropped in each cycle until a candidate finally receives a majority of votes.

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Small Parties Put Up Big Fight for Ballot Access in North Carolina

By: Collin Crookenden

Though the history of minor-party candidates dates back to long before the advent of political primaries, the solidification of the two major political parties has prohibited third-party candidates from being true challengers in presidential races. In fact, since George Wallace’s semi-successful campaign in 1968, no third-party representative has won a single electoral college vote. Instead of vying for the presidency, like Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 or Wallace in 1968, recent minor-party candidates are running to “make a statement against the two-party system.” However, the 2016 presidential election cycle highlighted the lack of faith in the two major political parties and the strengthening desire from many for strong third party or independent presidential candidates. Both major-party candidates had unfavorable ratings higher than 50% through Election Day, which activated a large push for third-party candidates on all state ballots and questioned state laws on ballot access.

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New York, Fusion Voting, and Gary Johnson – What’s an Independence-Libertarian to do?

By: Caiti Anderson

There is no state quite like New York – and not many election laws quite like New York’s, either. As one example, only New York and six other states permit fusion voting. On a fusion ballot, a candidate can be listed as candidate for more than one party. Fusion voting, as noted the 1997 Supreme Court decision of Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, had its heyday during the Gilded Age. Political parties, rather than governmental entities, distributed their own ballots to voters but did not affirmatively tell voters what other parties endorsed the same candidate(s) they supported. Thus, Candidate Smith could be supported by both the Granger and Republican parties, but those who voted the Granger ballot would not necessarily know from the ballot the Granger party handed them that the Republican Party also supported Smith.

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