Runoff Elections in the United States

By Charles S. Bullock III; Loch K. Johnson | Go to book overview

2

Myths of the Runoff

Four major myths have grown up around the runoff procedure. At the core of each lies a criticism that calls seriously into question the equity of this electoral method, namely, that the second primary yields different nominees than would a single primary based on plurality voting. In contrast, friends of the runoff point to the lower probability of the Condorcet Paradox occurring under the second-primary system. For them, the justification of the runoff lies in the likelihood that it will produce the candidate with the widest base of support, as opposed to the outcome of a plurality system when multiple candidates seek office.

For reasons that will become apparent, we give to these four myths—by which we mean popular folk or commonly accepted wisdom—the following labels: the leader-loses myth, the incumbent-loses myth, the female-loses myth, and the minority-loses myth. In this chapter, we examine the first three myths in depth and then set the stage for an extended discussion of the fourth and most controversial myth—the issue of minority disadvantage—in chapters 3 and 4.


The First Three Myths: Perceptions

The Leader-Loses Myth

A sense has developed, especially among politicians and media pundits, that the candidates who tally the highest number of votes in the initial primary are

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Runoff Elections in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Runoff Elections in the United States *
  • Contents *
  • Tables *
  • Preface *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • 1 - Introduction *
  • 2 - Myths of the Runoff *
  • 3 - Legal Challenges to the Runoff *
  • 4 - Race and the Runoff *
  • 5 - The North Carolina "Threshold" Experiment *
  • 6 - Runoffs and Voting Rates *
  • 7 - An Appraisal of the Runoff *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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