Voting in Louisiana
The state of Louisiana has been
using instant runoff voting for some overseas absentee ballots for
federal and state elections since at least the early 1990s.
Instant runoff voting in Louisiana is born out of
administrative necessity. Louisiana uses the ‘Cajun’ primary system for state
and federal offices: all voters select from all potential candidates
of all parties in the October primary election. If a candidate
earns a majority of the total votes in that election, that
candidate wins. If not, a runoff is held between the top two candidates of
any party in November. Federal races are conducted the same way,
but because of a Supreme Court ruling that the state could not hold
decisive elections before election day in November, they are now
held on a November-December schedule.
(called parish registrars in Louisiana) face a daunting challenge:
two elections in a month. They barely have time to declare the
winners of the October primary election for state offices and
determine what state races will go to a final runoff before they
must print the November ballots with the federal primary and the
state runoff. Overseas absentee voters often would not have time to
get the November ballot in time to mail it back.
voting solves the problem. State law permits parish registrars to
send special absentee ballots overseas that use preferential voting.
See Revised Statutes 18:1306(4) below. Overseas voters get two
ballots, a white primary ballot and a green general ballot. The
white primary ballot is a plurality election – vote for one
candidate. The green general ballot uses preferential voting: voters
rank the candidates, just in case their first choice candidate does
not survive to the runoff election.
Back in Louisiana, if any races
go to a runoff election, the registrar opens up the green envelope
and checks if the absentee voters’ first-choice candidate made it to
the runoff election. If so, the vote of the absentee Louisianan
counts for that candidate. If not, the registrar looks to the
second-choice candidates on the ballot (marked with a ‘2’). The
top-ranked candidate in the runoff election earns the vote.
See a sample ballot.
Read an excerpt from the Louisiana
The secretary of state shall prepare a special absentee ballot
for candidates and constitutional amendments to be voted on in
general elections, subject to approval as to content by the attorney
general. This special ballot shall only be for use by a qualified
voter who is either a member of the United States Service or who
resides outside of the United States. Such special ballot shall
contain a list of the titles of all offices being contested at the
primary election and the candidates qualifying for the primary
election for each office, and shall permit the elector to vote in
the general election by indicating his order of preference for each
candidate for each office. On the special ballot shall also be
printed each constitutional amendment to be voted on in the general
election. To indicate his order of preference for each candidate for
each office to be voted on in the election, the voter shall put the
number one next to the name of the candidate who is the voter's
first choice, the number two for his second choice and so forth so
that, in consecutive numerical order, a number indicating the
voter's preference is written by the voter next to each candidate's
name on the ballot. A space shall be provided for the voter to
indicate his preference for or against each constitutional amendment
contained on the ballot. The voter shall not be required to indicate
his preference for more than one candidate on the ballot if the
voter so chooses. The secretary of state shall also prepare
instructions for use of the special ballot.