Wednesday, November 17, 2010

North Carolina uses Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)

This fall North Carolina held the first statewide general election with instant runoff voting (IRV) in the nation’s history to fill federal judge Jim Wynn’s vacancy in on the Court of Appeals. Three Superior Court vacancies were also filled with instant runoff voting. The statewide vacancy election drew 13 candidates; the three Superior Court races each drew three candidates.

Before 2006, such judicial vacancies created between the primary and Labor Day of an election year were filled with a single election by plurality voting. With that system, voters cast one vote, and the candidate with the most votes won, no matter how low his or her percentage of the total vote. In 2004, a statewide vacancy to the North Carolina Supreme Court was won with 23%. IRV requires winners to demonstrate more support if they do no win a majority of first choice rankings. (See

From what we know of these IRV elections, voters seemed to have handled instant runoff voting well, which is a credit to state and local elections officials. Anecdotal reports from election officials have been positive. For instance, Carteret County Board of Elections director Lindy Lewis said yesterday toward the end of Election Day: “"We haven't had a phone call from a precinct official or voter (regarding the instant runoff) which makes me feel good about that.”

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