and Plurality Wins
Although the first-past-the-post, plurality
method of voting is by far the dominant voting system in the United States,
it is not without error. One of the most common defects in this
voting system is that it can elect a candidate into office who
did not actually win a majority of the vote. This apparent contradiction is
due to the fact that achieving a mere plurality ’Äì meaning gaining
more votes than any other candidate without actually getting 50% or
more of the votes ’Äì is all that is needed to win. Many are
familiar with plurality winners in presidential races ’Äì Bill Clinton,
for example, won the presidency in 1992 with only 43% of the
national vote and with a majority win in only his home state of Arkansas
’Äì but U.S. Senate races have also been marked by plurality winners.
The number of plurality victories in Senate races has been
increasing in recent decades, with some races likely tipped to one
candidate only because voters ’Äúwasted’Äù their vote on an independent
or minor party candidate.
View charts summarizing available data
on plurality wins in the U.S. Senate.
Read an analysis of the significance
of plurality wins in U.S. Senate