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Letter: Mayoral Election Process Needs Overhaul

Councilmen say town needs new election rules.

Dear Editor:

We believe the Town of Mount Pleasant should change its election system for Mayor for the upcoming November 2013 and future elections to a majority system where a candidate would have to receive 50%-plus-one vote to win.  How our next Mayor is elected is just too important as we now have 73,000 residents, making our Town the 4th largest municipality in the State of South Carolina and the 36th fastest growing municipality in America. 

The current plurality system works fine when only two candidates are running, but it clearly may not represent the interests of most voters if more than two candidates run.  When it’s just two people, a simple majority is by definition obtained by the winner. However, when three or more candidates are in a race, the waters get murkier and a winner can emerge without a simple majority, but rather just a plurality.

In fact, in a plurality system, since a candidate need have only a plurality of votes to be elected, most voters may actually have voted against the winner.  The plurality system creates problems of vote-splitting where two similar candidates split their combined vote between them, allowing a less popular candidate to win the seat.  That is not what our Town needs at this crucial point as we have grown to be a major population center and one of the most vibrant communities in America. 

It makes much more sense to have a majority system where, if no candidate gets 50%-plus-one of the votes cast, a runoff is held between the top two vote-getters.  Today, runoffs are used in many US cities that have non-partisan elections, primarily because the contests are more likely to draw more than two candidates. The majority system allows voters to have a second chance to vote for their chosen candidate, or even to change their minds between the first and the second rounds. 

Let us be clear.  Neither of us will be running for Mayor in the November election.  We both want to see Mayor Swails successor elected by a majority of the voters in our Town.  Why take the chance of ending up with someone that was supported only by a small segment of the voters? 

We will be introducing a motion and a request to change our current plurality system to a majority system at upcoming Town Council meetings and hope to have this important change in place for the November 2013 elections. 

Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Chris Nickels
Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Chris O’Neal

 

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