Ranked-choice primaries work

By Edward Still
Published March 26th 2006 in Montgomery Advertiser

Your recent editorial in favor of delaying the runoff primary and against the House bill setting up ranked-choice ballots for Alabama's overseas civilian and military voters was disappointing. The House bill calls for a system that it is fair to all concerned and easy to use.

In each race with more than two candidates, the voter would indicate his or her first choice with a "1," second choice with a "2," and so on for as many candidates as the voter wishes to mark. Each of these special absentee ballots is counted for the candidate marked as the first choice. If a runoff is necessary, those same ballots would be counted again for the runoff candidate who is ranked highest on each ballot.

While we want and need to be fair to our overseas voters, we must remember that they are about one-half of 1 percent of the electorate. Inconveniencing the other 99.5 percent by a longer runoff primary period just does not make sense. Doubling the runoff period from three to six weeks means twice as many ads we have to watch, and twice as much money the candidates have to raise for that period.

In the 2004 general election, Alabama's election officials sent out 8,000 overseas ballots but only 4,200 were returned. Those 4,200 voters already have problems that prevent their equal participation in our elections. The ranked-choice ballot would cut the administrative burden of the overseas voters in half. They would have to review the candidates only once, seek out the official to verify their signature only once, and mail the ballot back to Alabama only once.

Some complain that the ranked-choice ballot is too cumbersome or hard to count. In reality, if the voter can count to three, he ought to be able to use this ballot.

Edward Still