Third time's a charm for final approval of instant runoff pilots

Published July 27th 2006
RALEIGH, N.C. - The House needed three tries to finally get a bill through Wednesday that allows up to 20 communities to operate "instant runoff" elections through 2008.

The bill, which also pushed back by three weeks the date of the primary runoff date for legislative and statewide elections during even-numbered years, now goes to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature.

"This thing's like a vampire, it just won't die," said Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, before the measure finally passed 60-51.

The House narrowly rejected twice this week a Senate version of the measure creating the pilot in which voters in local elections to rank their order of preference among the candidates.

It's meant as a way to improve voter participation and reduce expensive runoff elections. No county will be forced to participate.

"There won't be any local instant runoff voting if the counties don't agree to do that," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, who supported the bill.

The defeats - first Monday and then Wednesday - left the future of the bill in doubt with the General Assembly expecting to adjourn this week. But lawmakers each time voted to reconsider the measure.

In an instant runoff, voters would be allowed to rank their order of preference among the candidates. The first choices of voters initially would be tallied. If the leading candidate failed to win more than 40 percent of the first-choice votes, the top two candidates would advance to the runoff.

Election officials would then examine the ballots of voters whose preferred candidate was eliminated. The remaining candidates would get votes for being the highest-ranked alternative choice. Those votes would be added to their original tally and the candidate with the most total votes would win.

House Republican Leader Joe Kiser, R-Lincoln, urged colleagues to reject the plan. Opponents say the measure would change campaign strategy and confuse voters.

"This is a drastic change in which we hold our elections in North Carolina," Kiser said. "It will change us forever."

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, successfully pleaded with the House to approve the bill once and for all.

"I think we've had enough debate on this," he said.