Louisiana held three runoff elections on April 5th to determine nominees for the May 3rd special election to fill the state’s two vacant congressional seats. Turnout declined by 17% from the first round, including 27% in the Democratic runoff in District 6. Louisiana taxpayers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on these runoffs. On April 7th in California, voters filled a U.S. House vacancy in a single election – something Louisiana used to be able to do before its 2007 law establishing a primary-runoff-general election system that can mean three elections to elect candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
FairVote’s executive director Rob Richie commented, “Ensuring winners of party nominations are not opposed by a majority of primary voters is a laudable goal. But the delayed, two-round runoff has big problems. It’s time to follow the suggestion of Senators John McCain and Barack Obama and adopt instant runoff voting in Louisiana.”
With instant runoff voting, voters have the option to rank candidates in order of preference rather than select only one choice. If no candidate receives a first choice majority, the two candidates with the most votes advance to the runoff. Ballots cast for eliminated candidates are added to the totals of the runoff candidates according to which candidate is ranked next on the ballot.
Instant runoff voting has been used to replace two rounds of voting in jurisdictions around the country, including Minneapolis (MN), Cary (NC), Pierce County (WA) and Oakland (CA). Instant runoff ballots are already used in Louisiana by overseas and military voters for these runoffs, as is also true in South Carolina and Arkansas. Sen. Barack Obama was the prime sponsor of Illinois legislation to establish instant runoff voting for primaries, while Sen. John McCain recorded a phone announcement in support of instant runoff voting in Alaska.
Instant runoff voting’s advantages over delayed runoffs include: 1) less money spent on running elections; 2) less demands for candidates on raising money; 3) higher turnout in one decisive election; 4) greater certainty that overseas and military voters will have their vote count.
FairVote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that studies the impact of electoral rules and systems on turnout, representation and electoral competition. To view more on instant runoff voting, visit http://www.instantrunoff.com and www.fairvote.org/irv and call (301) 270-4616.