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Topsail Voice

Improved Runoffs Needed in North Carolina
By David Richie
September 23, 2002

Recent results in the Democratic primaries for Sheriff and NC House of Representatives produced winners with 32% and 36% of the vote, respectively, with very narrow margins over the second place candidates. In both cases, runoffs between the top two finishers would have been required under previous rules - waived this year because of the lateness of the primaries in the election season.

It is worth noting that a more satisfying result, without delaying the outcome, could have been achieved with instant runoff voting (IRV). With IRV, voters can designate second, third or more choices, which would be counted if their first choice is out of the running. The winning candidate ends up with a majority of votes cast, demonstrating the kind of broad support needed to do well in the general election.

The modern voting machines now in use in Pender County can be programmed to accomodate IRV. Voter education to use IRV is not complicated. Rather than return to the cumbersome and costly runoff system previously in use, it would be a good idea to make provision for IRV in future elections.

Although not yet common in the United States, IRV has recently been adopted by several U.S. cities and is the recommended voting procedure in Roberts' Rules of Order, when there are more than two candidates in an election.

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