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North Carolina's 2004 elections highlighted disturbing flaws in the state's electoral system. In August, the state held a runoff election for the Democratic nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction. This election cost counties $3.5 million dollars, for a turnout of only 2 to 3% of voters. In the November general election, voting machines in Carteret County failed to record over four-thousand votes, whilethe Republican and Democrat were separated by less than three-thousand votes in the state-wide race for Agriculture Commissioner. As a result, voters throughout the state will have to re-cast their ballots for that position. These problems, as well as a host of others around the state, all stem from structural problems in the state's electoral system that are creating a democracy deficit in North Carolina.
In February 2005, FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy will be holding a series of workshops in conjunction with state and local activists in North Carolina to discuss ways in which current electoral practices can be improved. We hope that you can join us for some of these events.
Coverage of the 2004 general elections lacked the dramatic images of electoral problems that dominated 2000, but this should not blind us to the inconsistencies and unfairnesses which have plagued voting in North Carolina just as much this time round. The low turnout in the most recent primary runoffs raised questions about the effectiveness of the current runoff system ñ along with an excessively heavy elections bill for local communities. With the general election, more allegations surfaced of lost votes, voter intimidation, fraud and faulty voting equipment. And the emergence of new problems should not distract us from a long-standing one: ethnic and racial minorities in North Carolina have suffered from perennial under-representation. Although over 20% of the voting age population of the state is African American, only one in ten County Commissioners are. Now is the time to take action so that the problems which remained unfixed for 2004 will not resurface at the next election.