Instant Runoff Voting 1-2-3

By Diana Haskell
Published October 5th 2007 in Cary News
Once again Cary is a pacesetter. The Town Council has agreed to pilot Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in the upcoming Oct. 9 election. This is a type of preferential voting that allows voters to select their first, second and third choices for offices that have more than two candidates.

In the past, runoff elections have:

• Cost the Town of Cary about $62,000 each time one was needed

• Required that runoff candidates raise additional funds for the final push

• Necessitated another trip to the polls and attracted a very low turnout

• Resulted in decisions made by a small minority of the registered voters

IRV allows (but does not require) voters to rank the candidates indicating their second and third preferences that determine the outcome in case no candidate receives a majority of the first- choice votes. Hopefully, this approach will also improve the tone of the campaigns and expand voter participation.

I urge you to go read more about this initiative at the Wake County Board of Elections Web site where you can:

1. See a fact sheet about IRV

2. View a demonstration ballot

3. Read sample instructions

According to the Wake County Board of Elections, the vote counting is similar to a traditional runoff, but it happens with one ballot. As Cherie Poucher, the director, explained, "If nobody gets a majority of first-choice votes, the top two candidates go into a 'virtual' runoff. Your vote stays with one of those top two candidates if one of them was your first choice. But if your first choice was eliminated, then your vote goes to whichever of the top two candidates you ranked highest with your backup choices."

The citizens of Cary have a chance to show the rest of North Carolina how to simplify the electoral process and make democracy work. It really is as simple as 1-2-3! Make your voice heard and vote for the candidates of your choice on Oct. 9. Then forget about returning for a runoff on Nov. 6.