Originally, the US constitution specified that the runner up to the president in the electoral college becomes vice president, which would currently be Hillary Clinton instead of Mike Pence. This was abandoned in 1804 in favor of the current system where there is a separate vote for vice president.

I'm curious to know whether the original method of electing the vice president is unique. Are there any other electoral systems (either historical or currently in use) where the runner up is officially recognized or given some power? In particular, is there any other system where the runner up succeeds the winner if the winner is unable to serve? The VPOTUS system was unworkable, so I'd be particularly interested in any similar system that ended up working well.

The closest I can think of is the leader of the opposition in parliamentary systems. However, this position usually has no power, does not succeed to the prime ministership, and that person must still win their own seat in the legislature.

  • How are you defining "runner-up" and "electoral system" here? Does the first mean "person with the second most votes" or "the first person not getting the usual prize"? For the second, how far from a straight national plurality vote for a government position are you willing to go?
    – origimbo
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 17:45
  • @origimbo I'm looking for any interesting examples. If I make the question too narrow, I expect no answers. Obviously the electoral college is not popular vote.
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 17:59
  • @Abigail I was thinking the leader of the opposition is the one who comes second in the parliamentary vote for prime minister, although at least in the U.K. this is not a formal vote.
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 2:02
  • @Abigail Yes, as I said, it’s not necessarily a formal vote. The leader of the opposition is usually the leader of the second largest “block” as judged by the president/monarch.
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 2:20

4 Answers 4


Maryland's delegate system gives each district three legislators in the House of Delegates, to be determined by the district as a whole (rather than 1 district one rep). If more than 3 people run, then the seats will be awarded to the best performers out of three on the list. The members are not ranked so the person with the highest percentage will get the first seat, followed by the second, than the third. The number of votes received does not matter for the purposes of any right (Candidate A could be the first-named, the last-named or named in for any seat in between, but they do not get any special treatment if elected before their colleagues).

This is often held for judicial seats in the United States which will ask to pick candidates for open benches, but no seat out ranks any other seat.

  • But does each voter get to vote on one candidate or three? Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 22:18
  • 1
    You vote for three candidates (if the ticket has Alice, Bob, Charlie, and Dave as candidates and three seats are open, I can pick any combination of the three candidates. If I voted for Alice, and Alice recieves the most votes, it's assumed I voted for her in addition and she is seated... If Dave is first and I did not vote for Dave, I still have two of my three picks to win). You can also write in, with three available write in slots in case I want to vote for Emily, Frank, Greg, who are not on the ticket.
    – hszmv
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 14:16
  • So in no way a proportional system but a block voting where the majority of the district can sweep all the seats. Whereas if you could vote for only one candidate, it would produce at least some form of proportionality. Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 17:00

Chile does this with its legislative elections, as do Argentina and Mexico in their upper houses or Senates. Chile's is a even split (1 to the first party, 1 to the second party) unless the most voted party has more than 67% of the votations. In Argentina's and Mexico's Senate, the first party gets 2 seats and the next one gets 1.


To answer the original question better: In Myanmar, the President is determined by means almost identical to those of the United States prior to the 12th Amendment. The differences are:

  1. The electoral colleges are selected federally, rather than by the constituent entitys, and are also the legislators.
  2. The people to be voted on are advanced by the colleges themselves.
  3. There are intended to be exactly 3 candidates.
  4. The military is essentially guaranteed one of the 3.
  5. The final arrangement requires legislative approval.

(Aside: it appears that the authors here wanted to deliberately subordinate the President et al. to the legislative power)

Because there are 3 candidates, there are two vice presidents. Their relative rank depends on the vote they receive. For some news on it, see here: https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/htin-kyaw-confirmed-as-next-president-in-history-making-vote.html


All Multiple Member Seat systems meet this requirement. New Zealand apportions district seats to the party group least represented in electorate seats. The Australian Senate elects 6 or 12 seats from a single state electorate. States with upper houses do likewise. The UK House of Commons had ordinary electorates with multiple seats through the early 20th century and University Multi member electorates to the 1950s.

  • 3
    Good point. However, I think of multi-member elections or proportional representation as a “co-first” rather than a first and second, since all the elected members attain an equal office.
    – Thomas
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 2:24

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