- Runoff election is unique to southern states
- 6 runoff elections held so far, 4 to go
- Cost and relevance leading to less support for runoffs
- Over $2.7 million spent on one North Carolina House race
- How many gubernatorial elections are there in 2011?
The history of the runoff election is mired deep in southern racial politics. Most southern states implemented a runoff system in the early 20th century in an effort to broaden the base of the historically dominant, and primarily white, Democratic Party. By the late 20th century, the runoff election evolved into a little-known, yet very effective political procedure used by state legislatures to benefit one party over another in an election. For example, depending on which party has legislative control, modifications in runoff requirements have been made to ensure a particular candidate makes it through to the general election or an opposing candidate does not, only to change again the next time party control switches.
Over time, runoff elections have begun losing support. States like North Carolina have revised their process, and in 2005 Florida was the first southern state to get rid of the practice all together. Proponents of ending runoff elections in Florida said improved voting technology, the ease of early voting, as well as complying with federal rules to get ballots to overseas voters on time, all contributed to their decision to end the process. Additionally, as states try and balance budget deficits, paying millions of dollars for an additional election with traditionally low turnout seems less financially prudent than in years past. All of these factors could result in the end of the runoff election for other states in years to come.