It’s the Tuesday after Labor Day, and it’s time to… vote?

That was the case just weeks ago in Georgia’s House District 71 – which comprises portions of Coweta and Fayette counties. Due to a resignation, a special election was called to fill a vacancy. While to timing was certainly not ideal, Georgia’s early voting laws made it possible for vacationers to cast a ballot. At least it was only a one-time thing, right?


Because of the jungle primary nature of the election, 5,003 Georgians took the time to come to the polls Sept. 3 and choose between 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat on the ballot – meaning no candidate received even 37% of the vote.

The logical step to agree to a candidate that the majority of the constituents want to represent them would be to let them list their second choice so every vote would be counted. But in fact 657 votes were not counted because voters needed to remember to come back on Oct. 1 - not exactly a time where many citizens are eager to vote – and vote again. I have no issue with Philip Singleton being elected because in this case he won by enough votes that even if all 657 votes that were not counted went to his opponent he would have won – but wouldn’t it be nice to have all votes counted?

It’s time to stop the insanity and embrace an instant runoff.

Voters in Georgia’s House District 71 must now turn out in early fall to choose between two Republicans who are getting increasingly hostile toward one another in an effort to distract voters from the fact that their issue profiles are virtually identical (in this conservative district, the 2 leading Republicans easily made the runoff).

This means low turnout. It means more opportunity for lobbyists and special interests to buy an election. It means more nastiness and bitter campaigning that leaves a district divided and disinterested.

All of this could be avoided if instant runoff was available.

While this is just one election, opportunities for instant runoffs – where voters are able to rank their candidate of preference and achieve a truer representation of their wishes - to be the method or a method of voting abound in state all around the country.

There are many benefits to instant runoffs. It encourages more civil campaigns as candidates seek to appeal to an audience that may not have them as their first choice but would consider them as a second. It also encourages more participation as voters have an even greater say. It also eliminates the cost and burden of runoff elections.

For these reasons – and many more – it’s time for states to consider incorporating instant runoffs either as their sole way of voting, as a double-check system (where a runoff can be avoided if the plurality winner and the majority runoff winner are the same), or as an option in special elections like in HD 71.

At a time when our democracy has been under attack from those who seek to cast doubt about the validity of our elections and by the special interests who flood the system with cash, this is a simple step that can make democracy better for all.

John Pudner is Executive Director of