Under the Dome

Hall: Instant runoffs could have saved N.C.

Bob Hall says instant-runoff voting could have saved the state millions.

The executive director of Democracy North Carolina says that North Carolina could have avoided today's primary runoff, which will cost from $3.5 to $5 million, by asking voters their second choice in the initial ballot.

"Today is really a case where we have this miserably low turnout, and it really is not democratic," he said.

Under instant-runoff voting, voters mark their first, second and third choices in a given race. If no candidate gets a majority in the initial round of voting, the second-choice votes of people who voted for the losing candidate are counted.

State Rep. Paul Luebke proposed a bill to allow the method in statewide party primaries and judicial races in the 2005 session, but it was scaled back to a pilot program for municipal elections. The towns of Cary and Hendersonville successfully used instant runoffs in the 2007 races.

Hall, a campaign finance reformer, said that instant runoffs also help candidates budget wisely.

"You don't have to worry about squirrelling away money for a possible runoff," he said. "And you don't have a situation where the candidate who can raise a lot of money real quick has an advantage."


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Re: Hall: Instant runoffs could have saved N.C.

Something isn't more democratic just because you repeatedly say it is. Why would IRV be more democratic than a traditional runoff election? Bob Hall knows if you don't that the SBOE didn't want to use IRV in the May primary election for county elections because it posed a risk. So there is no way it could have been used in the May 2008 primary for any statewide elections.

We have no software to tabulate IRV, so we'd have to tabulate it by hand like they did in Cary in October 2007. If you go by the ballot tabulation rate set the first time the Wake BOE counted the IRV votes, it would take you 7.5 weeks to process 150,000 Wake County Democratic ballots - until the middle of July. And then you would have to go back and tabulate them again to check your work before declaring a winner. And God Forbid we would have had more than one statewide runoff race - we might not know who the runoff winners were until after the November election!

Before considering this risky and expensive voting method, our state legislators should hold public meetings not only about IRV in general but how the State Board of Elections conducted the 2007 pilot program. Non-profit groups like DemocracyNC and FairVote had way too much influence in the planning of the pilot and implementation of the voter education and exit survey effort. There is evidence that the volunteers who did the voter education and exit surveys had some pro-IRV bias. Other interested groups like the political parties and verified voting groups were shut out of the process.

And even if IRV supporters have conned people here into thinking that IRV is cheap, there is ample evidence that IRV is much more costly than traditional elections and rarely needed runoffs. Using costs per registered voter from the Maryland State Legislature and multiplying that times the 5.8 million registered NC voters, it would cost $18 million or more to implement IRV in the first year, and $2.8 million each election year after that for voter education. Over 33 years, it would cost NC voters $40 million or more to implement IRV over having traditional elections and rarely needed runoff elections.

Re: Hall: Instant runoffs could have saved N.C.

This is simply not true - and Bob Hall knows it. Bob knows there is no certified software to tabulate the IRV votes, so they would had to have been tabulated by hand. At the rate the Wake BOE went in October 2007, we'd still be sorting/stacking and counting Wake County's 150K Democratic ballots from the May primary until the middle of July.

That is assuming that IRV didn't cause an election meltdown. Hall's name was on an agenda from a March 6, 2007 State Board of Elections meeting stating they would "...not use IRV in May 2008 because it poses too much of a risk." Something that poses a risk is not safe or solid.

The millions of voters who use it without problems use it overseas in parliamentary elections where they elect the party - not the candidates in our more democratic American-style elections.

IRV did not do well when it was used in Cary. When 25% of votes who show up to vote don't know they are expected to rank their choices - those voters were disenfranchised. And it is certainly not easy to count - the Wake BOE messed up tabulating a little over 3000 IRV ballots. And while IRV advocates claim that IRV ensures a 50% plus one vote majority winner, the winner of the Cary election 1401 votes - less than the 1512 votes that made up 50% plus one vote of the 3022 first-column votes.

IRV is not being used in many other states in statewide elections. IRV does not save money - because the implementation and voter education costs will cost more than what we spend on runoff elections we rarely need. Using costs per registered voter calculated by the Maryland State Legislature when they considered and rejected IRV three times, IRV could cost NC taxpayers $18 million to implement and $2.4 million each subsequent election years for voter education. Over 33 years - IRV could end up costing North Carolina taxpayers $40 million more than paying for runoff elections only when they are needed.

If you want to get other information about IRV from people who are not getting paid to push it - check this out:

Center for Range Voting
Libertarian Reform Caucus
North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting
The Problem with Instant Runoff Voting

And check out this research paper on IRV:

Please sign the Petition to Restore Election Integrity in NC by opposing IRV

Re: Hall: Instant runoffs could have saved N.C.

As reported in the N&O, the people of Cary felt IRV was a big success. It was recently endorsed by the league of Women Voters and it is already being used in many other states with very good results -- saving millions for municipalities and counties in the process. It's a solid, safe common sense solution and its easy to understand. Millions of voters already use it without confusion and I think North Carolinians are certainly smart enough to do the same. If you want to know more about instant run-off voting, you can find out more for yourself at the following links:

How Cary voters reacted to their IRV election:

Some good general IRV info:

How IRV works:

Exit Polls from the North Carolina IRV pilot programs:

Re: Hall: Instant runoffs could have saved N.C.

WhalerCane is completely wrong. For starters, IRV would be a immensely more democratic. A 2% voter turnout??? That is absurd and could have been remedied with IRV.

Second, it will save the state money. WhalerCane mentions some possible initial investment in voting machines, but that money will be quickly made back by avoiding future runoffs. IRV would be a very wise financial investment in the state's future.

The polls in both Cary and Hendersonville show voters vastly prefer IRV over two-round runoff. They find it cost-effective and easy to use. IRV just makes sense.

Re: Hall: Instant runoffs could have saved state

There was nothing succesful about Cary's IRV Pilot.

Nor will it save money. In San Fransisco, they have spent millions in one city alone trying to make IRV work, not to mention education costs.

IRV is a well intentioned idea that has unintended consequences. It might make sense if we had a parlimentary system where you vote just once for the party, not for each individual office.

As well as being confusing and violating the KISS principle for elections (keep it simple,) our voting equipement is unable to handle it and it would threaten the integrity of our elections.

Better ways of solving cost problem of low interest runoff include conducting them by mail, changing thresholds, eliminating runoffs, or appointing low interest offices.

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