For years, it's been a foregone conclusion in St. Louis that the Democrat will win, essentially making the primary the real contest. However, this year's March 2 primary will look very different: it’s not just about which candidate you pick, but how many you pick.
In November, 70% of St. Louis voters passed "Prop D," adopting nonpartisan elections for local races:
"Shall the City of St. Louis adopt an ordinance to:
* establish an open, non-partisan system for elections to the offices of Mayor, Comptroller, President of the Board of Aldermen, and Alderman
* enable voters to choose all the candidates they wish in the open, non-partisan primary
* allow the top two candidates to then compete in a runoff general election?"
It scraps voting by party: rather than requesting a primary ballot based on your affiliation, Republicans and Democrats are on the same ballot.
Along with the mayor’s job, this is how the comptroller, aldermen and board of aldermen president will be elected — though Darlene Green is running unopposed for comptroller, and the board of alderman race is not on the ballot this spring.
The system St. Louis will now use is often referred to as approval voting. You aren't restricted to voting for just one candidate: you can mark as many as you want in each race.
For example: if you like “Candidate A” the most and just want to vote for them, you can do that. If you like "Candidate A" well enough, but also like candidates "B" and "C," you can vote for them all, and all of those votes will be weighed equally.
The two candidates with the most votes in the primary move on to the general municipal election April 6. If no more than two people are running in a primary race, as is the case in some aldermanic wards, both candidates automatically move on to the general election.
St. Louis' Democratic Director of Elections Ben Borgmeyer has been in touch with election officials in Fargo, North Dakota, the other city currently using this system. Borgmeyer said between those conversations and the work he’s done thus far, he's not worried about the new system making his job — or voting — more difficult.
"Our job is to make sure elections are obviously secure and that people feel confident in the results," he said. “It’s just kind of figuring out how to implement it and making sure voters understand what it is."