Federal Primary Runoff Elections and Voter Turnout Declines, 1994 - 2014

by Rob Richie, Robert Fekete // Published November 17, 2014

This report analyzes turnout data for the 184 primary runoff elections held between 1994 and 2014. Primary runoffs are elections between the top two vote-getters that are held after an initial primary should no candidate surpass a certain vote threshold (typically a majority) in the first round.

The report finds that primary runoff elections are plagued with significant declines in turnout that dilutes the representative nature of the system. The report further examines the effect of the time delay between elections on turnout decline. Finally, the report recommends alternative runoff systems such as instant runoff voting to eliminate the turnout decline problem while preserving the benefits to representation of runoffs.

Download our calculations here