Thoughts On Election Law

As a lot of you know, I handled Tripp Self’s campaign for Superior Court in the Macon Judicial District. We just about made it to 40% and we’re about 17% ahead of our competitor, which puts us in a very good position. Historically, it is a virtual impossibility to beat someone going into a runoff with that margin of victory going in — especially when we can tell that of the three candidates who did not get into the runoff, their vote share will overwhelmingly go to Tripp.

So, heading into the runoff, I have some thoughts on election law changes regarding runoffs.

While Tripp would not meet the criteria given that he did not make it to 45%, I do think that in nonpartisan races if a candidate gets to 45% there should be no need for a runoff. i think we should still get to 50% in partisan races because there is much more temptation to attract a third party candidate intent only in dragging down the perceived front runner. Likewise, in partisan contests, setting the bar to 45% hurts the Libertarians who, I think, help keep the GOP in line on the fiscal side with the knowledge that they can’t piss off enough people to really make the Libertarian significantly competitive.

In a nonpartisan race, however, those calculations generally go out the window. Nonpartisan runoffs, which don’t have party infrastructure to back them, have low turn out and cost a lot of money to run, both for the candidates and for the local elections officials. I think it would be best for everyone that a lower bar than 50% be set. If the legislature feels more comfortable, they could make it 45%, provided the closest challenger trail by 5% or more, to make sure they aren’t pre-empting what could otherwise be a viable shot for the second place finisher who was only hurt by a third party with minimal support.

15 comments

  1. DougieFresh says:

    So, in a district with 1,000 voters, the following should be a win for candidate A?

    A – 450 Votes
    B – 449 Votes
    C – 101 Votes.

    A has 45 percent, so he should win, even though it was only by one vote, and the thrid place challenger had 100 times the difference of the vote margin?

    I personally like the majority requirement as is. As for costs, that could very easily be eliminated by instituting instant runnoff elections where people rank the candidates, and eventually the winner will win with a majority.

  2. atlantaman says:

    I think voters should give their 2nd choice while voting for the first choice. I forget what this is called “automatic runoff” or something like that.

    It saves the money of the runoff, but eliminates a libertarian from putting a democrat in office like in the PSC race.

  3. Erick says:

    Doug, yeah, you can rig the numbers that way to make a point, but it ignores the five percent margin of victory, or for better historic measure, even a 10% margin of victory.

    Instant runoffs would be great, but have a high potential to confuse.

  4. atlantaman says:

    Erick-

    Do you know if instant runoffs have been utilized in other states? I’ve heard of the idea, but have never known whether it’s implemented.

  5. DougieFresh says:

    Oh, did you have a required 5 percent margin of victory? That would make your idea more sound. However, it should be 5 percent or the percentage obtained by the third place candidate, whichever is greater.

    I.e. if its 47 percent, 42 percent, 11 percent, it should still go to a runoff, since the thrid place candidate could tip the balance. If it is 47, 42 and several candidates with around 1 percent, then its unlikely the movement caused by one endorsement could change the election.

  6. StevePerkins says:

    Heh, the Libertarian slate of candidates jumps from around 1-2% of votes to around 4-5% of votes, and by coincidence it suddenly seems like a great idea to reduce the runoff threshold by exactly 5%. Wonder how the formula for THAT calculus got dreamed up…

    If cost of runoffs are genuinely the concern, then the logical reform would be instant runoff voting (http://www.instantrunoff.com/). In a nutshell, voters just put the candidates in order of preference. If nobody wins a minority, the candidate with the least number of votes get dropped and the the second-place choice on those ballots is used. Repeat that step until someone is left with 50%+1.

    Instant runoff voting isn’t a “theory”… it’s used in some western and midwesterns races, and is being testing in parts of North Carolina starting in 2007. Third parties love it because it helps them show support for the messages they’re championing (people are less uncomfortable picking them for the second-choice spot)… while at the same time it’s good for major parties because it eliminates spoiler risks. Just an idea to think about…

  7. atlantaman says:

    I don’t know if the 45% bar is fair, although I know most states do not have runoffs.

    What if you have 2 liberals and a conservative running. Let’s say liberal #1 gets 45.2% of the vote, liberal #2 gets gets 9.5% of the vote and the conservative gets 45.3% of the vote. Clearly liberal #2 pulled votes from liberal #1 but you would have a district that wanted liberal representation with a conservative rep.

  8. atlantaman says:

    The idea of instant runoff sounds great, you’re eliminating the cost of the runoff and you’ve got a bigger pool of people deciding the election.

  9. Erick says:

    StevePerkins, clearly you skipped my long dissertation on how this should only be applied in nonpartisan races because it would hurt the Libertarians and why that is a bad idea.

  10. StevePerkins says:

    I’m sorry I missed your early thread, Erick (do you remember the title so I can go back and find it?). I can certainly see an argument for why some Libertarians would dislike instant runoffs. Is it better to have a large number of second-choice votes, with the goal being to show support for issues and affect policy… or a smaller number of only-choice votes, with the goal being to win election outright someday? Pros and cons either way.

    Really though, the only complete losers under instant runoff voting would be Democrats. It’s not true that all Libertarians have a closer affinity to the GOP than the Dems, but the majority are far more likely to pick the Republican for their second-choice spot on a ballot. In terms of raw votes, instant runoff voting would be a huge plus for the Georgia GOP and prevent Dems from being able to take advantage of disgruntled Republicans voting for a spoiler now and then.

  11. Bill Arp says:

    Tripp Self is a good god fearing american. I am not sure why you would question his integrity. just because you are upset that you liberal minority (probably black) candidate did not win is no reason to change the election law…

  12. DougieFresh says:

    Bill Arp,

    It is impossible for someone who is not Tripp Self to know who or what Tripp Self fears. Plenty of professed “God Fearing” people have committed all sorts of acts of debauchery, theft, or worse.

    I support Self’s candidacy, but one should support a candidate for his positions related to his position, and not his church or religious affiliation. Perhaps if we were electing a pastor…

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