Special elections: Fill seats more quickly with a majority instant runoff

by Rob Richie // Published May 14, 2008
Yesterday Mississippi had its fourth election this spring for the first congressional district -- with two to fill a vacancy created by Roger Wicker's elevation to the U.S. Senate when appointed to fill Trent Lott's seat. Similarly, Louisiana's sixth congressional district was won last month after three rounds of voting. The residents of those districts went months without a representative.

Long gaps to fill legislative vacancies are a regular feature of our politics. For instance, right here in Montgomery County, Don Praisner yesterday easily won a special election to serve out the term of his late wife Marilyn Praisner in District 4 on the county council -- three months after his wife died and a month after his narrow win in the all-important Democratic primary. He will take office just after a series of critically important votes on the annual budget -- one in which his district had no representative.

There's a better way to fill such vacancies quickly and efficiently: instant runoff voting. As spelled out in my recent Fort Worth Star Telegram commentary on using "IRV" to replace runoffs in Texas, instant runoff voting elects a majority winner in one round of voting. IRV accommodates voter choice, saves taxpayer money and reduces the amount of money it takes to win office. In the case of filling vacancies, it has the particular advantage of securing a new representative to represent the interests of a district more quickly.

For more on instant runoff voting, see InstantRunoff.com and FairVote's IRV America site.