Runoff Election Comes With A Price
Tuesday - June 22, 2010
Written by Josh Ellis/David Horn
RALEIGH) -- Tuesday’s runoff election in North Carolina is expected to cost between $4 million and $5 million. That is according to State Board of Elections director Gary Bartlett.
Bartlett said in many ways, the runoff election is just like any other election. "You've got to open up the same polling places. You have got to do ballot coding, ballot printing. You have got to have absentee meetings done by the county boards and then the biggest expense is that you must have the manpower to run the election," said Bartlett.
Of course a runoff is like any other election. It's a separate election where you start out at ZERO.
You can see an interview with Gary Bartlett where he talks about the low turnout runoff and possibilities to change our election laws to decrease the need for low-turnout runoffs. He claims the voters aren't as engaged nor do they consider this as important as a general election. The parties and the general assembly should get together to get more voters to participate in the primary process.
One wonders why in NC, where we have party primaries and so many crybabies claiming that runoffs aren't needed, we just don't do away with thresholds and have winner take all primary elections? The candidate who gets the most votes wins - end of story. 41 other states don't have runoff elections. If we don't want to pay for primary runoffs, why not just get rid of them?
North Carolina Center for Voter Education director Damon Circosta said the high cost of runoff elections could be avoided. "We need to find a way, while we've got people at the polls, to make sure we record what would be their choice in a runoff election, hence the instant runoff voting," said Circosta. "All it is is a system where when you have people at the polls the first time, you record what their choice would be in a runoff scenario and then you don't have to bring them back for a second time and open the polls again."Damon (and I presume the Center For Voter Education) continue to claim that once that IRV would save the high costs of runoff elections. And where are they getting this information to make the claim that IRV saves money when there is ample evidence from real world elections that IRV not only doesn't save money - it actually costs MORE than having two separate elections (primary & runoff, primary and general election, general election and runoff, etc.).
And yes it is very easy to say that IRV is just a system where you have people at the polls one time and you record their additional choices so they don't have to come back a second time. Problem is, our election equipment in NC won't handle IRV without some risks - risks that our State Board of Elections has been aware of since 2007 when they were first pushing IRV.
I have asked Damon and NC Center for Voter Education President Wayne Goodwin if the Center supports IRV, and if so, why? I still haven't received any response directly addressing those questions. Damon texted me at 11:54 AM today:
Board of cve never taken official position on irv. Cve always seeks to improve elections.Does this mean that the Board of the CVE feels that IRV improves elections, or is it just the staff that feels that way? If it's just the staff that feels that way, does the Board of the CVE and other non-profit electoral reform groups support the actions of their staff to promote IRV without taking an official position on IRV?
I know why groups like FairVote and DemocracyNC support IRV. But I don't know why other groups support IRV, unless there is some sort of requirement that non-profit groups support each other's agenda no matter what?
And what would be wrong with just going with winner take all in the primary? Or with a sliding scale threshold? Let's keep the 40% threshold. If someone gets greater than 40% - they win outright even if one gets 45% and the other gets 44% (according to both Gary Bartlett and Don Wright of the NC State Board of Elections).
But let's say that the leader got between 30% and 40%. Did the second place finisher get between 30% and 40% - or at least within 10 points? If so - hold a runoff. If not - the leader wins. That way you don't have the expense of a runoff.
The thing about runoff elections is that in a traditional top-two runoff, the second-place finisher "flips" and wins the runoff 33% of the time. In an IRV election, the 1st round winner wins the IRV tabulation in greater than 90-95% of the time. Which seems more democratic?
Note: the story was updated after both Joyce McCloy and myself contacted NCNN to present other information about IRV:
A grassroots group called, "NC Voter" maintains that Instant Runoff Voting is not the solution. The group questions exactly how IRV would be counted. Advocates with the group say the process does not end up saving money and it "does not provide a majority, but awards winners with less than 50 percent of the ballots cast." "NC Voter" references from other states at ncvoter.net.Let's hope that before our General Assembly considers all the information on IRV before they get conned into extending the existing IRV pilot program (already extended to 2011 from the original 2009 cut off date) or getting rid of the program altogether and making IRV an approved voting method. From what I heard today both from the SBOE and various legislators, there is no movement to bring up IRV during this short session. But, as one legislator told me, that could change....