Nothing is more important to the vitality, indeed the survival, of a democracy—that rare and fragile form of government in which the views of the people count—than free and open elections. In addition, true democracies feature an unfettered media, due process, fair trials, protected speech and privacy, and, in the more robust, mature variants, equal opportunities for economic and social advancement, with no citizen relegated to deprivation. Yet, in the absence of competitive elections—the guardian angel of liberty—these additional benefits of democracy are unlikely to survive.
Given the importance of elections to democratic government, political scientists have devoted a good deal of attention to this subject. The professional literature abounds with detailed studies of voting behavior, political parties, campaign strategies, nominating conventions, the influence of media on elections, the contemporary effects of the Electoral College, and the like. The most impressive contribution of American scholars to the discipline of political science may well be, in fact, the rich understanding of elections that has emerged from their research in the second half of this century.
Although the scholarly literature is impressive, the search for knowledge about electoral behavior in democracies, both here and abroad, has by no means been completed. Much of the underbrush has been cleared away, but the jungle remains dark and deep. The findings offered in this volume seek to contribute to this search by addressing a little-studied, yet important, method of leadership selection: the runoff primary.
The runoff has been tried in seventeen states and is presently used in ten southern states and two states outside the South (for a listing, see Table 1.1