Cary voters feel prepared for instant-runoff voting

By Valerie Marino and Adam Arnold, Staff Writers
Published October 9th 2007 in Cary News
For many voters, Cary’s participation in an instant-runoff voting pilot program was as easy as 1-2-3.

Polly Jenkins lives in District B in central Cary. She said she had read several articles about Cary’s instant-runoff voting pilot program and had no problem with it “since I was prepared.”

Three Cary Town Council races have the potential for the instant runoff to be used. There are three candidates for the District B and D and four for an at-large seat. However, two of the at-large candidates announced their withdrawal from the campaign but will remain on the ballot. Results of the elections were not known at the time of publication.

For many Cary voters who were asked, the new ballot seemed pretty easy.

Ed Bright, who voted in District C in southeast Cary, said Cary’s use of the instant-runoff voting pilot “sounded like a good idea. I was glad to see Cary try that out.”

Kelley Reep said she knew “all about” instant-runoff voting when she cast her ballot in District D in southwest Cary but “I don’t even think I put a second choice.”

Jerry Garte of District B in north Cary, said he had no trouble with Cary’s instant-runoff voting pilot program. “It’s fairly simple,” Garte said. “It’s a wonder they hadn’t thought of it before.”

Not everyone was as sanguine. William Meyer, who voted in District B in north Cary, said he hoped voters are not confused by instant-runoff voting. “I think by doing that they’ve complicated the system,” Meyer said.

James Edwards, who lives in District A in northwest Cary, said he was not familiar with instant-runoff voting.

Bob Flaherty of District C in southeast Cary said the instant-runoff voting was needless on his ballot. “There weren’t that many candidates,” he said. “It should be very easy in the future.”

One voter had partisan concerns, even though Cary’s elections are nonpartisan.

“I really think it’s a little confusing, said David Chambers, who voted in District D in southwest Cary. “A Democrat isn’t generally going to put a Republican on the ballot.”

For another voter, acceptance of the new method is just a matter of time.

“We’ll have to try it a time or two,” said Larry Stringfellow of District D in southwest Cary. “It’ll have to be on the ballot a few times before people trust it.”

The N.C. General Assembly approved the approach as a pilot program last year for up to 10 cities in 2007 and 10 counties in 2008. The Town Council agreed in May for Cary to be one of the cities to try the program. Hendersonville is also participatiing.

Elections officials and leaders of several election-reform organizations call the instant runoff a way to give choices back to voters, save counties and municipalities money and take some money out of politics.

Runoffs are used in jurisdictions where a majority of the votes cast in a race are necessary for election and no candidate receives a majority in the initial tally. In an election using an instant runoff, voters not only mark their ballots for their first choice for an office but may mark their second and third choices as well. In a three-person race, for instance, if the voter’s first choice is not among the top vote getters, then the remaining candidate who is marked higher on that ballot would receive the vote.