The issue with runoff elections

Travis County Chair Brian Talbot Jr. after voting in local runoffs.

Runoff elections, one of the outcomes of our election system. Whenever any candidate can’t get 50% or more in an election it goes to a runoff election scheduled at a later date. Seems like a pretty reasonable compromise. But is this system really the best we have?

Today I went and early voted in the runoff elections in my area. I’m the kind of person that votes for as many offices as I can, and two of the offices I voted for (ACC Board, and AISD Board) went into a runoff (along with Austin City Council Districts 1,3, and 8). So when I saw this I figured I needed to do my duty and support the people I voted for just only a month ago. So I went to my local polling place early on a Saturday morning, with my daughter in tow. There were four people working the polling station helping me get situated while cooing at my daughter and talking with me about UT and the Big 12 Championship game. I signed the voter roster which only had one other name on it, voted and went on my way. Afterwards I realized me and the other voter will probably be the only people that will vote that day, and there probably won’t be many before or after us.

The truth is runoff elections historically have the lowest voter turn out of all elections. In some elections no one even turns up at all, as was the case in Hall, King, Lynn and McMullen counties for their Democratic primary runoffs this past May. But even with the low turn out polling places still need to be staffed for the early voting period and election day for runoffs. This shows a waste of time, money and resources from our communities for a system that does not even allow for the electorate to vote their conscience.

Well there is a better way, a way we can have runoffs the same day as election day and let voters realistically have more than two choices. The solution I am talking about is Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Instant-Runoff Voting. In this system instead of just holding your nose and picking the “lesser of two evils” or picking the candidate that is least likely to win, you can choose whoever you want and not have your vote thrown away. With Ranked Choice Voting you simply rank the candidates 1,2,3. After the first round of voting if your first-choice candidate is eliminated your vote gets transferred to your second-choice candidate; and so on until you have a a candidate that has 50%+ of the vote.

This system makes for a more equitable elections as it more accurately represents the voice of the people by giving all candidates a shot at winning. It also makes for more civil elections as candidates still want to be a voter’s second or third choice so it encourages them not to be disparaging at each other.

Now Ranked Choice Voting is not without its faults. There are occasions where a less popular candidate wins as opposed to the most popular candidates, such as the 2009 mayoral election in Burlington, VT. But such problems are prevalent in the current system, like with the 2000 and 2016 Presidential Elections.

Overall, Ranked Choice Voting is showing its successes in Maine who just had their first RCV election, and in municipalities across the country. This success can continue starting here in Travis County! We, the American Solidarity Party of Travis County ask that you write your City Council as well as your Mayor to start using Ranked Choice Voting in your local elections.

In Solidarity,

Brian Talbot Jr.
County Chair
American Solidarity Party of Travis County.

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