Now that IRV has its toe in the water in Georgia, I thought it would be interesting to speculate a bit about any effect that Ranked Choice Voting could have on elections coming up this year and next.

Two special elections were held in Georgia on June15th. Both had more than two candidates, and both will require a runoff to determine the winner. Over in Cobb County, where State Rep Bert Reeves resigned to take a job at Georgia Tech, five candidates sought to succeed him. Republican Devan Seabaugh didn’t quite get a majority, so he will face Democrat Priscilla Smith in a July 13th runoff.

House District 156, down in Southeast Georgia, held a special election on the same day.  Two Republicans (Leesa Hagen and Wally Sapp) finished within a percentage point of one another, but neither got a majority. Democrat Wright Gres garnered 14.62% of the vote, forcing a runoff. Interestingly, this was the first time since the district was formed a decade ago that a Democrat had sought the seat in this heavily Republican part of the state. What we can infer from this example is that candidates Hagen and Sapp would do well to make nice with the Gres supporters if they want to win. And that’s what we have been hearing from around the country, that candidates seeking to be someone’s second choice if they can’t be first, leads to a move civil discourse, and the eventual election of people who are less ideological, and better able to cooperate and craft policy once in office. What would this race have looked like if IRV were in effect?

Special elections, non-partisan elections and primaries with no incumbent  are the sweet spots where IRV can make a real difference, because that’s where we most often see the longer candidate lists.  The next schedule for Special Elections in Georgia is September 21st. We’ll be watching that one.

There are no elections coming in 2021 that will trigger the use of 2nd ranking ballot for overseas absentee voters. It is our understanding that the Secretary of State will only require local election officials to invoke that procedure when a Congressional or US Senate seat is on a ballot.