can we kill the run-off? plz?

well, i voted. yet again. it seems like all i do these days is vote. a presidential election last year, then a senate run-off last year, then a mayoral election this year, then a mayoral run-off this year. it’s getting a tiny bit out of control.

at least i can assume that 2010 will not bring any run-offs as both johnny isakson and john lewis are pretty much assured at least 50 percent. that being said, can we do away with the run-off and just elect the person with the plurality after the first ballot?

it’s no secret i voted for mary norwood (although it was one of the least enthusiastic votes i have ever cast), so yes, in this instance, the lack of a run-off would have elected my candidate, and now, it appears, although a recount is imminent, that the run-off will elect her opponent, but look, i would support this either way.

it’s not that i dislike voting, it’s just that i am not sure what the point of the run-off is. it’s not like it’s the exact same electorate. some people vote in the run-off who didn’t in the previous election. a lot of people who voted in the general election never make it out to the run-off. so it isn’t about who most people support, but more about who can get people to go out and vote yet again.

i am all for people’s civic duty, but when we are voting over and over and over, and as ben mentioned for positions most people don’t even know what they do, it’s easy to see why people throw up their hands and don’t vote.

so i say kill the run-off.

i am sure i am wrong about this, so tell me why.

6 Comments so far

  1. Michael (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2009 @ 8:15 am

    I think the problem with the runoffs is the implementation, not the concept: it’s one of the few really democratic parts about the system here (“here” being the US in general, not just GA). The idea that in order to have a mandate to govern, one must actually represent the majority of voters (at least, among the options available at the polls, which is another rant entirely) is a solid one.

    I see the electoral problems in Atlanta as multi-faceted, but primarily twofold: there’s the systemic problem, and the social problem. Obviously, these overlap, but hear me out. The systemic problem is that not enough people know about or are able to find time to vote in the general election, let alone the runoff. Keeping polls open till 8 is a good start. This is a problem anywhere in the US (except maybe DC and other hyper-motivated centers).

    Second, there is the much more looming, local problem: lack of media coverage. Part of why I was so equivocal in my votes for Mayor and Council Prez was the total dearth of decent journalism: at least the mayoral candidates had televised debates to watch, and some meager AJC analysis following, but I found no such coverage for any of the council or other races. I was invested in the Bell, Wan, and Farhoki campaigns, but information beyond what I learned at neighborhood gatherings was appallingly sparse.

    So this is my response: the runoff is a great idea, but to make it anything more than a pain in our collective asses, we need to hold local media, especially AJC, to the fire, and get coverage and analysis, so voters not only know that there’s an election on, but can make reasonably informed decisions (and get excited about them!) without having to dig through city records and council vote ledgers alone.

  2. Bhuark (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2009 @ 8:16 am

    Well, this is America jacking things up again. Run-offs based on a parliamentary style government are good, it encourages coalitions and even if the losers issues are taken into account by the eventual run-off winners.
    In single seat elections, its rather silly, meaning that even less possible points of the spectrum are met, and its the same old biggest warchest and knee-jerk comfort voting.
    The run-off system started back in the early days of big parties, at least here in the US. Back in the day before, in at least the presidential elections, the runner up was the vice-president, but American politics have changed into the same polar popularity contests we see today.
    So, I submit that the problem isn’t the run-off, its the style of government we choose, with the executive branch ( or its equivalent ) being a little more unchecked and unbalanced than other branches of government.

  3. james hervey (jeherv) on December 2nd, 2009 @ 9:27 am

    fair points. if the “run off” really garnered the opinion of the same electorate that voted on voting day maybe i could get on board. i may be okay with a system where you select both first and second choice and you vote automatically counted for second choice if your first is knocked off.

    that being said, many, many, many municipalities elect with a plurality and i don’t hear voters in those areas saying the “will of the people” isn’t represented.

    i would have to check the data and i don’t have time now, but i think saxby chambliss actually got less votes in the run-off than jim martin did on general election day.

  4. Ron Davis (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

    I like the run-off system, for what it’s worth. I wouldn’t argue that it’s perfect, but I think we should keep it around. But that’s not why I opted to comment here.

    James’ question about Chambliss’ votes in the run-off vs. Martin’s votes on general election day got me curious, so I looked it up.

    In the general election, results were:
    Chambliss – 1,867,097
    Martin – 1,757,393

    In the run-off, results were:
    Chambliss – 1,228,033
    Martin – 909,923


  5. Matt (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

    I am a big fan of the concept of Instant Runoff Voting (, which I think would go a long way towards moving us away from a strict 2 party system.

  6. james hervey (jeherv) on December 2nd, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

    i think turn-out was higher in the mayoral election last night than in the general which to me is even more absurd than the results of the senate run-off.

    i think i could get on board with the instant run-off.

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