HI-1: Republican Charles Djou Set to Win Special Election over Split Democratic Majority

The latest poll from Merriman River has Republican Charles Djou set to win the special election May 22 for Hawaii's First Congressional District due to a split among Democratic voters between two candidates. From Civil Beat:
Djou leads with 39.5 percent of the vote, followed by former Congressman Ed Case and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who are tied at 25.5 percent.

Djou is likely to win this election but will not be the best expression of the constituents’ will. The district is very liberal and tends to vote overwhelmingly Democratic. In fact, an overwhelming majority of those polled say they want a Democrat to win.

But that might not happen because of how Hawaii runs its special elections. It has no primaries and runs a free-for-all election, with whoever gets a plurality declared the winner. If there had been a primary, there’d be only one Democrat in the race, and without a party split, that Democrat would likely win. If they used instant runoff voting, or even a top-two runoff if no candidate wins more than 50 percent, Djou would probably lose. The overwhelming left-leaning constituency would coalesce around one Democrat.

This special election shows how election structure has a huge effect on our government. We should strive for a system where election results best represent the will of the voters. You can easily modify the rules to make sure candidates representing the majority of the voters actually win, instead of letting a minority choice squeak by with a small plurality.

Djou’s projected victory will probably be short-lived. He will likely lose in November when a standard primary followed by a general election means he will face only one Democrat.

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