For Immediate Release
/ April 10th 2008

What If They Had a Runoff and Nobody Came?

Huge Turnout Decrease in Texas Makes Case for Instant Runoff Voting, Method Backed by Senators John McCain and Barack Obama

Rob Richie Executive  Director
[email protected] (301) 270-4616 
Aurelie Marfort Communications Assistant [email protected] (301) 270-4616 

Texas’ April 8th runoff election experienced a dramatic decline in voter turnout from the March 4th initial round. In a statewide Democratic Party runoff for railroad commissioner, Mark Thompson won a majority with fewer than 120,000 votes after falling short of a majority in March with 940,722 votes. Overall, turnout declined by more than 89% in his runoff, and declined by at least 40% in all eight runoffs for state and federal office held by Republicans and Democrats (see below). Texas taxpayers spent several million dollars on these runoffs.

FairVote’s executive director Rob Richie commented, “Ensuring winners of party nominations are not opposed by a majority of primary voters is a laudable goal. But the delayed, two-round runoff used in Texas isn’t working. It’s time to follow the suggestion of Senators John McCain and Barack Obama and adopt instant runoff voting in Texas.”

With instant runoff voting, voters have the option to rank candidates in order of preference rather than select only one choice. If no candidate receives a first choice majority, the two candidates with the most votes advance to the runoff.  Ballots cast for eliminated candidates are added to the totals of the runoff candidates according to which candidate is ranked next on each ballot.

Instant runoff voting has been adopted to replace two rounds of voting in jurisdictions around the country, including Minneapolis (MN), Cary (NC), Pierce County (WA) and Oakland (CA). Instant runoff ballots are also used by overseas and military voters during traditional runoffs in South Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana. Sen. Barack Obama was the prime sponsor of Illinois legislation in 2002 to establish instant runoff voting for primaries, while Sen. John McCain that year recorded a phone announcement to support instant runoff voting in Alaska.

Instant runoff voting’s advantages over delayed runoffs include: 1) less money spent on running elections; 2) less demands for candidates on raising money; 3) higher turnout in one decisive election; 4) greater certainty that overseas and military voters will have their vote count.

FairVote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that studies the impact of electoral rules and systems on turnout, representation and electoral competition. To view more on instant runoff voting, visit and and call (301) 270-4616.


 U.S House – 22, R 
 Pete Olson    59.7%
 State House – 52, R Bryan Daniel   
 State House – 55, R
 Ralph Sheffield 53.6%
 State House – 81, R
 Tryon D. Lewis
 State House – 112, R Angie Chen Button 46.5%
 State House – 144, R Ken Legler 46.4%
 U.S House – 32, D Eric Roberson
 Railroad Commissioner, D
 Mark Thompson 89.8%

* Data for runoffs is preliminary, but reflects 100% of precincts reporting.