Posted on January 30, 2009Michael Steele today was elected as the first African-American chair of the Republican National Committee. The former lieutenant governor of Maryland, Steele was a surprise winner who built support during six rounds of voting that reflected key elements of instant runoff voting.
The RNC charter requires that the winner must receive an absolute majority of 85 votes from committee members. If no candidate earns this tally, the election moves on to additional rounds of voting. No candidate needs to drop out, and voters can change their vote. These rules result in public and private deal-making, but promote a consensus-building process.
A second-place finisher in the first round, Steele was the winner in the sixth round of voting after all but one of his opponents had dropped out. Here was how the count went.
CANDIDATE 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th Mike Duncan 52 48 51 xx Michael Steele 46 48 44 60 79 91 Katon Dawson 28 29 34 62 69 77 Saul Anuzis 22 24 24 31 20 xx Ken Blackwell 20 19 15 15 xx
No candidate dropped out after the first two rounds of voting, but then, surprisingly, the original first-place candidate Mike Duncan -- the incumbent chair -- dropped out. The count then became very much like instant runoff voting. The last-place candidate Blackwell dropped out after the fourth round and the next weakest candidate Saul Anuzis dropped out after the fifth round. Steele picked up more than two-thirds of their votes, allowing him to win handily after trailing by six votes in the first round and by 62-60 after the fourth round.