Pouring money into runoffs

In case you’re counting, the runoff election on June 24 cost more than $50 per vote cast for election officials to administer—about $4 million to operate about 3,000 polling places and process the results of barely 75,000 votes cast. In some counties, the cost for the local board of elections easily exceeded $70 per vote.

Local taxpayers foot the bill, not the state, which may be one reason why state lawmakers have been slow to address the problem of expensive, low-turnout runoffs for the partisan nominees for executive-branch elections.

One alternative is instant-runoff voting, where voters can mark their first choice and a back-up choice on election day. Democracy North Carolina has a simple fact sheet about IRV, or preference voting, on our Web site (www.democracy-nc.org/improving/IRV.pdf), pegged to the pilots run in 2007 in a couple municipal elections.

Opponents of IRV in North Carolina have a habit of spreading fear and wrong information; for example, it’s ludicrous to say that IRV costs more than the runoff system we use now.  There’s got to be a better way than these embarrassing statewide runoff elections—either by filling some of the Council of State positions by gubernatorial appointment, nominating others with a different threshold for victory, using IRV, or something else.

— Bob Hall
Democracy North Carolina

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