Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee signed legislation earlier this month providing that overseas military voters will receive instant runoff voting (IRV) ballots in all of Arkansas’ federal, state and local elections that might have a runoff. A voting method that elects a majority winner without the need of a second-round runoff, IRV has gained increasing attention for presidential elections and been adopted by voters recently in San Francisco and cities in Michigan and Vermont.
Championed by Republican state legislator Horace Hardwick and passed
with only one dissenting vote in the legislature, HB 1770 solves a
problem for overseas military voters who too often miss out on a chance
to vote in runoff elections. Runoffs are commonly used for federal and
state primary elections in southern states and for mayoral elections in
cities around the nation.
FairVote’s executive director Rob Richie commented, “Runoffs often take
place too soon after the first round to provide time for runoff ballots
to be printed, mailed and returned in time to count. At a time of war,
with a large number of National Guard members serving in nations like
Iraq, all jurisdictions with runoffs should follow Arkansas’ lead.
Arkansas now joins Louisiana in providing IRV absentee ballots to
overseas military voters. Louisiana extends this protection to absentee
voters to all overseas voters and military voters who are stationed in
another state. In 2004, some 10,000 Louisiana voters received IRV
Nationally, IRV was implemented by ballot measures in all three cities
that voted on it in the past year: Berkeley (CA), Ferndale (MI) and
Burlington (VT). The average victory was by a margin of more than
two-to-one. These measures follow on the heels of the November 2004
successful introduction of IRV in San Francisco, where exit polls
indicated voters overwhelmingly preferred the new system. Supporters of
IRV for major elections include the Democratic National Committee
chairman Howard Dean and Arizona Senator John McCain.