North Carolina's expensive, low-turnout electionsThe 2004 primary elections for state and local office drew attention to many flaws in the way North Carolina holds its elections. North Carolina uses party primary elections in which the second place finisher may request a runoff election, in the event that no candidate receives at least 40% of the vote. This often leads to low turnout elections in the 2nd round runoff at great expense to taxpayers. On the other hand, when a 2nd place challenger decides not to request a runoff, the results can be unrepresentative, as candidates often take office with far less than half of the votersí support. This occurred in 12 races in 2004, and some examples of these problems are highlighted below.
In the 2004 Governorís race, Richard Vinroot could have challenged David Ballantine to a Republican runoff election for Governor after coming in second place by only 1,509 votes. However, Vinroot did not request a runoff, and Ballantine rolled on to the general election after being nominated with a meager 30% of the vote. Thus, North Carolinaís only statewide race to see a runoff this year was the Democratic Partyís primary for Superintendent of Public Instruction. This runoff came at a statewide cost of $3 million for an election that only drew 3% of the electorate.
In a time of decreased federal and state aid to local governments, the costs of runoff elections fall squarely on the counties purses. Though the state-mandated Superintendentís election was the only race on the ballot for many parts of North Carolina, county governments had to foot the bill. With perpetually low turnout, high costs, and undemocratic results, North Carolinaís election methods are due for a change. FairVote wishes to educate state and local officials, activists, and citizens on alternative voting methods that will remedy North Carolinaís current woes. Representative Paul Luebke (D-Durham) has a draft bill which would replace the current two-round runoff system with instant runoff voting. We urge North Carolinians to support his efforts.