For once, spared a runoff
Published October 20th 2005 in Wilmington Star
It’s a relief that Wilmington voters won’t be asked to return to the polls to settle a single contest for the City Council.

Fourth-place finisher Pat Delair’s decision against demanding a runoff with Earl Sheridan was smart politics for her and a favor to the city, which won’t have to spend $50,000 for the exercise, and to the voters, who wouldn’t have gotten their money’s worth.

After all, Dr. Sheridan’s margin wasn’t just a few votes, but 1,363. His deep roots in Wilmington and his work in a wide variety of civic organizations made him a promising candidate for the council and the likely victor in a runoff.

To be sure, the outcome wouldn’t have been a sure thing. Turnout almost certainly would have been pathetic, and the outcome would have reflected nothing more than the preferences of a handful of residents who cared enough to vote.

It’s time to scrap the primary runoff, a vestige of the days when the Democratic Party dominated North Carolina politics and white supremacy was its goal.

There are other ways to make sure that the winners in a multi-candidate field represent the broad electorate. Probably the most sensible is the “instant runoff.”

Voters rank candidates in order of preference. If there’s no definitive result with the first-place choices counted, the lower-ranking choices are included.

It seems to be working in some other communities around the country, and there’s talk of trying it in statewide elections.
Wilmington’s latest election is another reminder that what worked in great-granddaddy’s day doesn’t work in ours.