St. Louis City Passes Proposition D: Upcoming Elections Will Be Drastically Different

In the most recent election, which was held on November 3, 2020, St. Louis City's Proposition D passed, receiving 68% of the vote. This result establishes "approval voting" for the March 2021 primary election, for the offices of Mayor, Comptroller, Board of Aldermen President, and Alderman. Fargo, North Dakota had been the only U.S. jurisdiction to use this type of approval voting.

Under approval voting, formally called non-partisan elections, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, appear on the same ballot. Voters may vote for as many candidates for a given office as they wish. For example, if three people are running for mayor, you may vote for none, one, two, or all three of them. However, in the general election, only the top two vote recipients for a given office from the primary will run against each other and only one vote can be cast for a candidate.

Supporters of the Proposition have noted that approval voting in the primary will allow voters to choose candidates whom they deem best for the job, rather than simply voting along party lines. Furthermore, they have claimed that approval voting should ensure that the general election is comprised of the top two candidates, which will make the general election more meaningful, and the winner of the general election should have a broad base of support. In recent contested elections, the winner often failed to garner a majority of the vote.

However, opponents of the Proposition have mentioned that allowing people to vote for multiple candidates may cause the first choice of a majority of voters to fail to make the general election. Also, they have stated that it will be extremely difficult to educate voters about the change, particularly since the change does not affect county elected offices or state elected officials. Lastly, opponents have argued that by replacing the one-person, one-vote system, the Proposition could fuel strategic voting, which would allow for well-organized, higher-income, older voters to advance candidates they like.

This is a drastic change to the election process. Instead of the typical Democrat versus Republican race for an office, now there is a possibility for a Democrat versus Democrat or Republican versus Republican race. Each candidate will have to figure out how to effectively campaign in this new primary election environment in order to be one of the top two vote-getters among the candidates of both parties.

Lewis Rice Government Solutions & Administrative Law attorneys work with a wide range of elected and appointed decision-makers as they navigate major policy issues. We regularly represent clients’ interests before executive departments, legislative committees, administrative agencies, and local government bodies. If you have questions regarding Proposition D or the upcoming 2021 Election, please contact David Sweeney, Sonette Magnus, or Mike Crawford.