Steele elected chair of RNC in instant runoff-type process

by Rob Richie // Published January 30, 2009
Michael 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.