Instant runoff voting offers cost savings and enhances democracy

By John H. Gilbert, Sharon Everett
Published July 2nd 2008
This letter is in response to the June 24 Point of View piece regarding instant runoff voting. The Wake County Board of Elections unanimously endorsed becoming a pilot for the 2007 election cycle. Information on IRV was presented to the Cary Town Council, which approved conducting the pilot.

Much misinformation has been written about that pilot. It is true that at this time there is no certified software for Wake County's optical scan equipment to count an IRV ballot. We knew that when we endorsed the pilot program knowing the IRV ballots from Cary would have to be hand-counted.

From the time results are available on election night until the board again meets to certify the results of the election, those results are unofficial. It is the responsibility of the elections board director and staff to administratively audit and reconcile the unofficial results prior to the board's certifying the results of an election. This audit and reconciliation is not a nonpublicized meeting; it is an administrative responsibility of staff. Any person wishing to observe this process would be allowed to do so. It begins the day after an election. This was done for the IRV in Cary just as it was done in all 100 counties after the second primary June 24.

Wake County has not compiled the entire cost of the second primary, but it is estimated to be approximately $300,000. That would amount to approximately $45 per vote. Compare that to the savings in the pilot IRV election. An informational brochure explaining the IRV process was mailed to all Town of Cary voters for an approximate cost of $9,000. The cost of sorting and hand-counting the IRV ballots was $552. A runoff election for the District B contest would have cost the Town of Cary approximately $24,000.

North Carolina set a record in May for the percentage of voters participating in the primary. About 38 percent of the voters went to the polls in May and marked their choices. Compare that with the 1.8 percent who voted in the second primary. Isn't it better to have a nominee selected with 38 percent of the electorate voting vs. 1.8 percent of the electorate voting? This can be accomplished with IRV.

John H. Gilbert, Chair

Sharon Everett, Secretary Wake County Board of Elections


(The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the article. The letter also was signed by the other member of the board, Thomas W. Steed, Jr.