McCullough wins Court of Appeals seat in round three

North Carolina’s first statewide instant-runoff race finally has a winner. Judge Doug McCullough, who formerly served on the Court of Appeals from 2001 to 2008, edged current Judge Cressie Thigpen by a mere 0.62 percent in the recount of the IRV tally of second- and third-place voter choices. Thigpen, who originally led by some 100,000 votes in the general election’s first-place tally, lost ground in the second-round IRV count and requested a recount. He conceded the race yesterday when the unofficial third-round results showed ballot totals of 543,980 to 537,325.

In Buncombe County, the recount tally gave Thigpen 17,812 to McCullough’s 13,008. According to the Buncombe County Board of Elections’ Ben Bryson, the third-round inspection gave each candidate between 20 and 30 additional votes. North Carolina became the first state to use the IRV ballot-ranking method when 13 candidates filed for the Court of Appeals seat that became available too late for a statewide primary. (For additional information on the race, see “Close Call.”)

In a media advisory today, election-reform think tank FairVote reported that North Carolina State Board of Elections director Gary Bartlett said there were no major problems with the IRV count and that the new method gave voters a chance to participate in picking the winner. “Whether you like it or not, it worked,” he was quoted as saying.

— Nelda Holder, freelance for Xpress


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2 thoughts on “McCullough wins Court of Appeals seat in round three

  1. Joyce McCloy

    FairVote’s primary objectives are to promote instant runoff voting and also proportional representation. They also sell election “consultant” services and recommend voting vendors.

    None of us can say for sure how the vote tally went, because we don’t have the data needed. The state used error prone uncertified software to tally IRV, the IRV votes were not counted at the polling places but later counted at central locations, and the audit data we were able to obtain is confusing and not consistent.

    Did voters use IRV? Did they understand it? All we have is anecdotal evidence, because we the public are not allowed to see the ballots. Unlike in other IRV jurisidictions, North Carolina won’t release the vote or ballot data that shows how voters marked their ballots for all 13 candidates.

    For 13 candidates, we know the first round choices, but we only know the 2nd and 3rd choice votes for Thigpen and McCullough. For all we know neither would have won if the other votes were considered.

    What we do know is that 48 days after the election we have a “winner” who pulled up after being 100,000 votes behind. Both Thigpen and McCullough each ended up with approximately 28% of the vote. About 800,000 voters were effectively shut out of the “runoff” election, because out of 13 candidates, they didn’t vote for Thigpen or McCullough.

    Thigpen went from 537,445 to 537,325, or down by 120 votes. McCullough went from 544,023 to 543,980 or down by 43 votes. McCullough won by 6,655 votes (including IRV). I’m basing this on numbers from data at NCSBE site on Dec 13 and Dec 20

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