“Instant” Court of Appeals decision takes a while

The winner of the Nov. 2 instant-runoff contest for the N.C. Court of Appeals seat will hardly be instant.

Most of the election dust settled last Friday when the state’s 100 county election boards performed their vote canvasses to certify election results to the N.C. State Board of Elections (with the exception of Madison County, where charges of voting irregularities are under investigation). But according to Don Wright, SBOE general counsel, the second round of counting in the 13-candidate appeals court race won’t begin until Nov. 29. That’s after the SBOE’s own canvass on Nov. 23, when it can be officially declared that none of the 13 candidates attained a plurality (50 percent).

Under the instant runoff voting process, voters got to mark their first, second and third-place choices on the ballot. Only first-place votes were counted in the initial results tally, with two leading candidates expected to advance to round two: Cressie Thigpen (20.32 percent of the unofficial total) and Doug McCullough (15.20 percent). On Nov. 29, local election boards will take the next step and examine the second- and third-place votes for the top two contenders, Wright explained. A candidate who picks up a second- or third-place vote on a given ballot will get to add that vote to his first-place total — provided his rival is not also included as second or third choice on the same ballot. If that is the case, only the higher-value (second-place) vote on that ballot will be counted.

“After that [Nov. 29] count is combined with the candidate’s first-place votes, the candidate with the most total votes wins,” Wright told the Xpress by e-mail, adding that the combination will be a plurality since only two candidates are involved in the second round.

Meanwhile, in Buncombe County, the three-way, instant-runoff vote between Heather Whitaker Goldstein (32.94 percent), Diane K. McDonald (13.94 percent) and Marvin Pope (53.11 percent) for district court judge requires no second-round count. Pope, with more than 50 percent of the first-place vote, will be named the winner once the votes are certified.

Nelda Holder, freelance for Xpress

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