Two elections, one trip to vote

Published July 24th 2006 in Wilmington Star News
Wilmington is about to waste money and time to fill a vacated seat on the City Council. It will hold a special election in October and, if necessary, a runoff during the regular election in November. That's what state law requires.

The General Assembly would like to experiment with a different approach that could save time and money and yield results that more accurately reflect the desires of voters.

In theory, we hold runoffs to guarantee that the winner will have a majority of votes. In reality, so few voters turn out for most runoffs that the winner gets a majority of a handful.

It's an expensive, time-consuming and annoying process that often produces an undemocratic result.

The most promising alternative seems to work in other states and some cities. Now both houses of the N.C. General Assembly have passed bills to allow some localities to try it.

Called the "instant runoff," it allows voters to rank their choices: 1) Jason Johnson, 2) Jennifer Jones, 3) Joshua Jankowski, 4) Janet Jackson.

If no candidate wins at least 40 percent of the votes, the top two are awarded the votes from those who ranked them second.

It's logical, it's democratic, it's instant. It's time North Carolina tried it.