No-runoff nightmare


The Democrat primary to replace convicted State Sen. Gene Stipe (D - Big Mac) has produced a narrow win for State Rep. Richard Lerblance of Hartshorne, with only 27% of the vote in a field of five candidates. There is no runoff in this special election, so Lerblance moves to the general election knowing that 73% of Democrat primary voters wanted someone else.

We had a similar result in the race to replace John Sullivan in the State House after his election to Congress in early 2002. Six candidates ran in the Republican primary, won by Chad Stites with only 35% of the vote. The predominantly Republican district gave him a healthy victory over the Democrat in the race, but then the man's flaws began to surface. One wonders if a runoff in that special election would have brought matters to a head earlier.

I believe in majority rule, and "winning" with 27% of the vote doesn't qualify as a majority. Given the closeness of the race, even a two-candidate runoff could fail to give the victory to the candidate preferred by the majority of the voters. The third-place finisher, with 22% of the vote, might have been the choice of those who voted for #4 and #5 if the bottom two candidates had decided not to place their names on the ballot. If all of their votes had gone to #3, he would have had 48% and far outpaced #1 and #2. A similar situation in Louisiana in 1991 sidelined the incumbent governor and left voters with a choice between "The Crook" (Edwin Edwards) and "The Klansman" (David Duke). The same sort of thing happened in Oklahoma in 1990 in both parties' gubernatorial primaries; Burns Hargis might well have placed 2nd had it been a three man race, and Steve Lewis easily could have finished 1st ahead of Walters and Watkins, if a couple of minor candidates had not been in the race.

(Gubernatorial -- doesn't that word just make you think of a peanut doing the backstroke?)

The only way to ensure that the most preferred candidate is elected is to have a series of runoffs, eliminating the candidate with the lowest vote total after each round.

Too expensive and time consuming you say? That's why they invented Instant Runoff Voting -- one ballot, one election, but all the runoffs you need to ensure that the voters' preference gets the victory.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 13, 2003 11:18 PM.

Sheriff's tax goes down to defeat was the previous entry in this blog.

Public storm shelters? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]