Voices & Choices

June 26 primary watch: Rules matter

June 26 primary watch: Rules matter

The editors at Ballotpedia -- the nonpartisan, online encyclopedia of American politics and elections -- asked me to provide some analysis for the June 26 primaries on the wide array of rules in states that can have big implications for electoral outcomes and voter turnout. A quick review:

  • In Mississippi and Oklahoma, a nominee must earn a majority of the vote. Mississippi Democrats will pick a U.S. Senate nominee three weeks after Howard Sherman and David Baria lead the field with 32 percent and 31 percent of the vote, respectively. The winner will earn a majority tomorrow, but likely with far low voter turnout than on June 5. Oklahoma’s Republican gubernatorial primary also likely will trigger a runoff, but one that won’t be held until August 28.

    Mississippi’s runoff is so much faster because, along with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and South Carolina, it allows overseas voters to cast ranked choice voting ballots when they return their primary ballot. Those ballots are counted for the runoff candidate that is ranked higher on each ballot.

  • A bigger difference is having no majority requirement at all. In Colorado, both major parties’ gubernatorial nominees will be determined in crowded fields where winners are expected to have low shares of the vote. That’s also true for Maryland Democrats in their crowded fields for governor and the sixth congressional district.

    We’ve already seen 58 nominations for Congress, governor, Lt. governor, or attorney general this year where the winner earned less than 50 percent, including Republican nominees in heavily Republican congressional districts in Pennsylvania and West Virginia with less than 25 percent.

  • Maine now upholds majority rule differently. Last week, results showed that Janet Mills earned the Democratic nomination for governor and Jared Golden the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District after they won the first ranked choice voting primaries for statewide and federal office in the modern era.

    More Maine Democrats came out to vote than ever before for a primary, and Mills went from 33 percent in he first round to an “instant runoff” win with 55 percent. Mainers also voted to keep RCV in place for primary and, starting this fall, congressional elections.
  • In one of the nation's least defensible policies, New York holds its state primaries in September, but its federal primaries in June; Fortunately, no other states has chosen to comply with federal laws protecting overseas voters by adding a whole new primary election on its calendar; doing so is certain tol hurt turnout in both primaries.

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