Endorsement: Baltimore mayor’s race shows why ‘top two’ is the better way
Posted by Russell Daniels on June 04, 2020 at 2:48 PM
Baltimore mayor’s race shows why ‘top two’ is the better way | COMMENTARY
Here’s one that might be the most sensible: Conduct an “open” primary where all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run against one another. The top two finishers then face off in the general election.
No offense to the potential challengers, but for someone other than the winner of the Democratic primary to win citywide office, not only pigs will have to fly, but cows, sheep and horses, too, all joining together to do barrel rolls over Camden Yards. Four years ago, no one came close in the general election to the votes won by Democratic primary winner Catherine Pugh (134,848). Even the runner up in the primary, former mayor Sheila Dixon, who ran again in this primary, won more general election votes in 2016 as a write-in candidate than the Republican and Green party candidates combined (46,471).
There’s no secret here. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a huge margin in Baltimore. And so the pattern continues: meaningful primary, followed by meaningless general election. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Indeed, it shouldn’t.
That’s not to say that Baltimore is alone in facing meaningless general elections in Maryland. In Prince George’s County, for example, Democrats outnumber Republicans by margins similar to Baltimore’s. And there are certainly areas of the state where Republicans dominate local races, too. A top-two selection process could keep those general election decisions something other than no-brainers as well.
And there’s another possibility: Ranked choice voting, where primaries aren’t settled unless a candidate receives at least 50% of the vote. Otherwise, secondary choices are factored in (who voters picked as their second or third favorite candidates, for example) as a kind of “instant runoff.” It’s a system used in a handful of states and more than 20 municipalities including Takoma Park in Maryland. It was used statewide in Maryland as early as 1912 but abandoned more than 90 years ago. It won’t solve the laugher general election problem, but at least it means the party nominee has more than ardent core supporters who stuck with him or her in a crowded primary.
In either case, the post-November political environment might be exactly the right time for all types of overdue government reforms, whether at the ballot box or elsewhere, given what a miserable year it’s been. And it’s only June.