State Rep. Blake Filippi has introduced legislation that would give voters an opportunity in the next election to amend the Rhode Island constitution to replace the current plurality vote with instant runoff elections. A plurality is winning with the greatest number of votes, even if the candidate does not win more than 50 percent of the vote. Filippi cited examples of Gov. Gina Raimondo, who was elected with 40.8 percent of the vote, and former Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who received 36.1 percent. “The fact that we have a prior governor with 36 percent of the vote and our current governor has approximately 40 percent of the vote — I think it’s obvious there’s a problem,” said Filippi, I-Westerly. “Our elected officials can serve without the strong mandate needed to effectively govern and I think that people feel their will isn’t being represented when you have someone with just a mere plurality serving.”
Runoff elections, on the other hand, require that a top vote-getter receive more than 50 percent of the vote.
“If no candidate initially breaks this 50 percent threshold in a typical three-way race, the first and second place finishers will have a runoff election,” Filippi explained. “Instant runoffs allow this second match-up to occur on the same day, thereby avoiding the expense and delay of another election.”
“This is accomplished by voters marking their first and second choices on the ballot,” he continued. “If a voter’s first choice candidate is not among the initial top two vote earners, their vote in the runoff will be cast for their second choice.”