IRV for Lousiana's Overseas Voters
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.

Election administrators (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.

Instant runoff 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.

Read an excerpt from the Louisiana statute below:

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.

Louisiana IRV Ballot (pdf)