What is vote-splitting? Why it’s a problem in states like Arizona, where extremism thrives

Imagine there is a ballot with several candidates seeking the same seat. And you like most of them. But you can only pick one because that’s what the rules require.

When that happens, the vote in a multi-candidate race is split – and the outcome often is the candidate you least like wins.

This is called vote splitting, a phenomenon that happens when a race attracts at least three candidates who have similar positions or maybe similar demographics. This makes it attractive for a contrasting candidate to benefit from the divided vote and prevail.

It’s happened time and again across the nation and here in Arizona.

Think Paul Gosar. He emerged from an eight-candidate field in 2010 to win the GOP primary in a heavily Republican district. It cemented his standing as an incumbent and he hasn’t lost since.

Rank choice voting vs. approval voting

There’s a move afoot to stop vote splitting by introducing “approval voting,” a system where voters could vote for all of the candidates in a given race who appeal to them. And they could do that without ranking them. This is something the Center for Election Science, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit focused on voting reform, is pushing.

In this episode of The Gaggle, Mary Jo Pitzl examines the effect of vote-splitting, the potential issues it can cause, and some of the unintended consequences of the practice. You’ll also hear about the related practice of ticket splitting, which factored prominently played a big role in the 2022 general election.

Joining Pitzl via Zoom are Nina Taylor, the organization’s CEO, and Chris Raleigh, director of advocacy and communication and a specialist in campaign management.

Listen to the podcast

Listen to The Gaggle on your favorite podcast app or stream the full episode below.

Read the episode transcript here. Please note, there might be slight discrepancies due to the AI used to transcribe the conversation.

Follow The Gaggle on X, formerly known as Twitter, and Instagram to stay in the loop on the latest political news and episodes.

Do you have questions about Arizona politics? Send them to us thegaggle@arizonarepublic.com or leave us a message at 602-444-0804.

Catch up on previous Gaggle episodes here:

Contact the producer at kaely.monahan@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter @KaelyMonahan.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: What is vote splitting and how does it affect elections?

Leave a Comment