Posted by Will Mantell on February 24, 2022 at 11:40 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Will Mantell, [email protected], 914-806-0081
Ranked Choice Voting Could Replace $6.4M, Low-Turnout Primary Runoffs in Texas
RCV would save millions and eliminate 42% drop in turnout – with 1 election instead of 2
February 24, 2022 -- Early voting is underway for Texas’s March 1 primary, but the state’s runoff system will ask many voters to cast a second ballot nearly three months later on May 24 – likely including high-profile races like the Republican primary for Attorney General and primaries for seven open congressional seats. According to a new analysis by FairVote and Ranked Choice Voting for Texas, this outdated and unnecessary voting system increased the cost of 2020 elections by approximately $6.4 million statewide (over 100 teacher salaries), while second-round runoff turnout drops approximately 42%.
Ranked choice voting (RCV) would solve all of these problems, with an “instant runoff” ensuring a majority winner in just one election.
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“The nation's first primary of 2022 dramatically demonstrates why ranked choice voting has become our nation's fastest growing reform,” said Rob Richie, President and CEO of FairVote, a nonprofit organization that advocates for better elections. “Voters deserve a faster and cheaper outcome than a separate low-turnout runoff 12 weeks later. They want better elections than being limited to a single choice in a crowded field. Proven across the country, ranked choice voting means faster, cheaper and better elections."
“Texas taxpayers are paying more money to make fewer people’s voices count. Ranked choice voting would solve the problem of expensive, low-turnout primary runoffs and a drawn-out campaign season. With RCV, cities and counties will save money and Texans’ votes will count. Ranked choice voting has been proven to work across the country and it’s time to bring it to Texas,” said Harriet Wasserstrum, Chair of Ranked Choice Voting for Texas.
The problems of the two-round primary runoff are particularly strong in Texas, where 37 of 38 congressional seats are considered “safe” and winning the primary is tantamount to winning election.
In addition to the $6.4m cost increase and 42% turnout drop, previous FairVote research shows that the two-round runoff system disproportionately affects voters of color – whose turnout decrease is greater than white voters. It can burden military and overseas voters, which is why six Southern states have implemented RCV for those voters instead of asking them to vote again in runoffs. Two-round runoffs can also hurt candidates, who might make it to the runoff with a tiny percentage of the vote and then win via the separate, low-turnout runoff – weakening their mandate to govern.
The two-round runoff problem affects both state and federal primaries in the Lone Star State, with several high-profile primaries likely to go to runoffs, including:
Four candidates are running for this statewide position, including current AG Ken Paxton, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and former Supreme Court Judge Eva Guzman. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 25% of the vote.
- TX-1 (East Texas): 4 candidates are running to replace Rep. Louie Gohmert. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 25% of the vote.
- TX-8 (Houston area): 11 candidates are running to replace Rep. Kevin Brady. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 9% of the vote.
- TX-15 (San Antonio area): In the state’s only highly competitive district, 9 candidates are running. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 11% of the vote.
- TX-38 (Houston area): 9 candidates are running for this new seat. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 11% of the vote.
- TX-15 (San Antonio area): In the Democratic primary for the state’s only highly competitive seat, 6 candidates are running. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 16% of the vote.
- TX-30 (Dallas): 9 candidates are running to replace Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 11% of the vote.
- TX-34 (South Texas): 7 candidates are running to replace Rep. Filemon Vela. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 14% of the vote.
- TX-35 (Austin-San Antonio): 4 candidates are running. The top candidate could make the runoff with just 25% of the vote.
Ranked choice voting is the fastest-growing bipartisan voting reform in the country, reaching 55 jurisdictions with 10 million voters across the nation. In 2021, RCV was used in a record 33 cities and the year’s biggest elections – New York City’s primaries and Virginia’s Republican convention.
RCV allows voters to rank their candidates in order of preference. If there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an "instant runoff." The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as “number 1” will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half of the votes.
FairVote is a nonpartisan organization seeking better elections for all. We research and advance voting reforms that make democracy more functional and representative for every American.