THE WAY DEMOCRACY WILL BE
For Immediate Release
/ March 21st 2005

Arkansas: “Instant Runoff” for Overseas Military Voters

Ranked-choice voting method keeps soldiers in democratic process

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 ballots.

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.