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Monday, May 23, 2005

North Carolina House Passes Instant Runoff Pilot Program

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As the Myrtle Beach Sun News reports, the North Carolina House passed HB 1024, a pilot program in which up to ten counties have the option of choosing instant runoff voting for their elections. The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.

In this version of ranked voting, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. If one of the candidates tops other candidates with more than a "substantial plurality" of the votes (more than 40% of the vote), that candidate wins the election. If none of the candidates wins more than 40% of the vote, the top two candidates advance to a second round.

In the second round, the ballots which didn't select one of the remaining two candidates are counted towards whichever of the two candidates is ranked higher.

Ranked voting forces candidates to appeal to a broader section of the electorate in the case that they are in a runoff and need votes beyond those of their core supporters. It also generally results in more a accurate representation of voter preference and intent by shifting a person's votes in a field with multiple candidates to the candidate they next prefer in the case of a run-off.

The bill that passed is a pared-back version of an earlier bill that would have offered ranked voting in partisan primaries for statewide offices and appellate court races in some cases. It's good to see the folks in North Carolina taking a commonsense yet experimental approach to dealing with some of the issues facing their democracy.

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