Opinion: Should Oklahoma Kill the Primary Runoff?

August will be a pivotal month for Oklahoma politics, with likely a record number of candidates facing off in runoff primary elections.

Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians will decide their nominees on Aug. 28 in nine statewide races and more than two dozen legislative and congressional contests.

But if the past is any indication, far fewer voters will cast ballots in these important second-round runoffs than those who voted in the first round of primaries.

The drop-off in turnout, and the cost of holding another election, have caused a number of state and national groups to pose the question, Should Oklahoma abandon the run-off?

An Oklahoma Watch review of election data found that in the 51 statewide, legislative or congressional races that have gone to runoffs since 2010, turnout dropped in all but two of the races. Overall, an average of 28 percent fewer voters cast their ballots in runoffs than in the primaries that led to them.

Candidates face runoffs when they fail to secure more than 50 percent of the vote. In these cases, the top two vote getters face off in a new election almost two months after the primary.

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