Y’all know where I stand on runoffs. Now the Democrats have weighed in and introduced a bill with their plan to end (not really) runoffs: keep them for races when no candidate gets over 45%.
We will get into why that’s bad for our current political climate in a minute. First we need to tell you a little more about who is bringing the bill and who the sponsors are.
HB 419 is authored by Progressive Democrat and freshman legislator, Saira Draper, who served as the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Director of Voter Protection prior to getting elected last year. In her previous role she was involved in several lawsuits against the state regarding elections on behalf of the Democratic Party. She is joined by other progressives and liberals Rhonda Burnough, Mary Margret Oliver, Teri Anulewicz, Kim Schofield, and Billy Mitchell.
Not one Republican is in the top six sponsors. Henceforth, we shall refer to HB 419 and the concept of dropping the threshold to 45% and then having a runoff anyway as the “Democrat Plan.”
The first, most glaring, problem with dropping the percentage to 45% is that it does not end runoffs. I know from talking with Rep. Draper that she will make the case that it will in most instances but your local governments will still need to budget for runoffs in the event that they do happen. And we know this is a very expensive proposition. And it still would have subjected us to a costly, extended runoff between Kelly Loeffler and Raphael Warnock as neither of those candidates reached the arbitrary 45% threshold in the first round of their race. We would have still paid the $75 million dollar tab for a runoff election where turnout dropped by 339,000 voters.
In dropping the percentage to 45 we also risk continuing to have a majority of voters looking at their elected officials as illegitimate. The attacks on everything an elected official does will be underlined by the fact that a majority of the people, up to 55%, wanted someone else to be in that job. I believe, in a time of political unrest and accusations of voter fraud or voter suppression coming from both major parties, any system that does not give us a majoritarian winner exacerbates the question of legitimacy in our elections.
For our policy nerds out there, you can read about the concept of “loser’s consent” from our friends at the center-right R Street Institute. If you do, you will see that throughout history the legitimacy of our elections requires the loser of elections to buy into the system. Under the Democrat plan as presented in HB 419, we would see a continued attack on our elections moving forward.
On the purely political side, Republicans will lose more than they win under the Democrat plan. And perhaps that’s why Rep. Draper was able to get so may of her progressive and liberal colleagues to sign on to the bill. Further, Democrats in Georgia know that if Libertarians (Big and small L) are given an opportunity to express their second choice that Republicans are more likely to pick up those voters. In essence, the Libertarian vote would be further marginalized, which the Democrats need to happen in order to win.
As you know I am not one to criticize a problem without a solution. Further, it is important to note that according to a recent UGA poll that 58% of Georgian’s want to end runoff elections. That same poll found that 38% want to have a majoritarian winner. Going to an instant runoff system is the only solution that ends expensive and lengthy runoffs while giving us a majoritarian winner. It is the only solution that gives both the 58% and 38 % what they want. And an Instant Runoff will do it while making sure the voters will feel that the person in office was elected by a true majority of people who supported them at least in some form.