| The Editorial Staff | Post and Courier |
South Carolina runoff elections are a waste of our time and our tax dollars. It doesn’t have to be this way.
By that we don’t mean the state should mimic the city of North Charleston and just declare whoever gets the most votes the winner, no matter how small a percentage that is. Instead, we mean there’s a better way to get a candidate to 50% plus one: ranked-choice, or instant-runoff, elections.
There are numerous long-term benefits of this sort of election.
It’s more complicated to explain than to accomplish: On primary day, you vote for your favorite candidate. Then you list your second-favorite candidate, and your third-favorite, and so on. You don’t have to pick a third or even second choice, but if you don’t, it’s like staying home on runoff day: The election is decided without your input.
If one candidate gets a majority of first-place votes, he or she wins, and the second-choice votes are never counted. But if no one gets a majority, we move to what’s called an instant runoff, which is a lot quicker and cheaper than a runoff, where even fewer voters bother to participate than the tiny minority who participated in the first primary.
For round two, election officials remove the candidate who finished last and count the second-choice votes on those ballots. The procedure repeats until someone crosses the 50% threshold.
There are numerous long-term benefits of this sort of election — starting with their ability to punish divisive or extremist candidates, and over time reward and encourage more centrist candidates — but for today, just focus on this: If the Legislature adopted ranked-choice voting, we wouldn’t have to go out to the polling places a second time, we wouldn’t have to pay to run a second election, and we wouldn’t have to endure the often-nasty runoff campaigns.