Two Elections Aren't Better Than One

by Erik Connell // Published March 12, 2009
After spending the last few weeks updating FairVote's bi-annual report on turnout dropoff in federal primary elections, I was starting to get depressed about American elections (OK, so maybe that happened long before I started working on this report). On average, 35% fewer voters bother to show up to the polls for runoff elections. This, after the already low number of people that show up for primary elections anyway. In the race for Texas' 32nd U.S. House district last year, 94% of primary voters failed to show up for the runoff! Most states that have runoff elections are southern states that have them for both primary and general races. That's four elections in a single year, or an average of one every three months. People have other things to do besides constantly read up on new candidates and issues. That's why we have elected officials (and non-profits).

Then came the results from Burlington's mayoral election last week, where they voted with instant runoff voting for the second time. 94% of voters participated in the final round of counting! Because voters were able to rank the candidates, they were able to simply vote in one election without having to worry about coming back in a few months. I'm sure they were also glad the city didn't spend their tax money on a second election for the exact same race.

I don't know about you, but I would much rather have an election where 94% of voters ARE participating in an election as opposed to 94% sitting it out.