09/23/10 — Instant runoff will be on N.C. fall ballots

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Instant runoff will be on N.C. fall ballots

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on September 23, 2010 1:46 PM

One political race this fall will offer North Carolina voters an instant runoff option intended to speed up the voting process.

Wayne and Duplin County voters will join other residents Nov. 2 using the instant runoff voting, also known as alternate vote, to select a state Court of Appeals judge from a field of 13 candidates.

The process is easy: Voters pick a first, second and third choice for the seat in order of preference.

Only the first choices are tallied in the initial count. If there is a clear winner, the candidate with the most votes will take the office, Wayne County Board of Elections Director Vickie Reed said.

However, in the event that no single candidate earns enough votes to win the election, the "instant" part of the term "instant runoff" comes into play.

"If there is no majority, we have to look at the second choice candidates," Ms. Reed said.

The voting system eliminates the need to postpone announcing a winner and holding a runoff election. Preventing a runoff election saves the county a lot of money, officials said.

"It's almost like a second primary, only we don't have another election, you make your second choice there. It saves the cost of a second election," she said.

In the event of a runoff election for a state office, Wayne County would have to open all 30 precincts and order 70,000 additional ballots. Avoiding a runoff could also save money on poll workers and the amount of time and cost in delivering supplies and rent.

The county Board of Elections will explain the process to voters through several channels. The state Board of Elections voter's guide explains in detail how to vote in the election, and provides information about the candidates.

"We will be handing those out as soon as those are available. It tells you how to choose," Ms. Reed said.

Instant runoff voting has been used in several county municipal elections, but never in Wayne County, and it has never been used to decide a statewide contest, she said.

The county will be able to determine a winner for the county, but because it is a state position, only the official canvass will declare the winner for the state.

Although technically voters could vote for the same candidate three times, the extra votes would not be counted in an instant runoff.

"You can, but it will not count. It would be the same as an over vote on a regular ballot. You can vote for less than three candidates," Ms. Reed said.

The race is the last one on the ballot, and is only for the state Court of Appeals race. The county will have sample ballots available soon, Ms. Reed said.

The field of candidates for the open state Court of Appeals seat is the only race in the state that will feature the instant runoff voting option.

Jim Wynn of the state Court of Appeals resigned earlier this year to take a position on the U.S. Court of Appeals. The 13 candidates running for the vacant seat are John W. Bloss, J. Wesley Casteen, Chris Dillon, Jewel Farlow, Daniel Garner, Stan Hammer, Mark E. Klass, Doug McCullough, Anne Middleton, Harry E. Payne Jr., John Sullivan, Cressie Thigpen and Pamela M. Vesper.