Ballots for Overseas Voters

Problem: If an election calendar schedule a second-round runoff too close to the first round election, it becomes difficult to print and mail ballots to overseas voters (such as soldiers stationed abroad) and have them return return those ballots in time to be counted. Some states address this problem by extending the time between election rounds, but this change lengthens the campaign season for voters at home and may not help the overseas voter.

Solution: Under instant runoff voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference on a single ranked choice ballot. If a candidate receives a majority of first choices, he or she is elected. If no candidate receives that initial majority, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated. Voters who ranked the eliminated candidate first now have their ballots added to the totals of their second choice. This process continues until one candidate earns a majority of votes against their remaining opponents.

As detailed at, overseas voters can make use of the ranked choice ballot to make sure their vote counts in more than one election. Voters receive a ranked choice ballot along with their regular ballot. They return both ballots at the same time. In the event of a second election, their ranked choice ballot is counted for the runoff candidate who is  ranked higher on their ballot. Overseas voters do not have to worry about receiving and returning a new ballot after the first election. Election administrators only need to send one mailing overseas.

Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas and Springfield (IL) all successfully use IRV for overseas military voters in their runoff elections for federal primaries and other offices.