Instant runoff voting passes North Carolina Senate

Released July 19, 2006

The North Carolina State Senate passed a bipartisan bill today to set up a pilot program for instant runoff voting (IRV) and to implement IRV for statewide elections to fill judicial office vacancies. The bill will now return to the House, which passed a similar bill in 2005, in order to reconcile the two versions.

Under the proposed law, the North Carolina State Board of Elections will select up to 10 cities and 10 counties in which to conduct a pilot program during the 2007 and 2008 elections. The Board would then issue a full report with findings and recommendations.

According to FairVote executive director Rob Richie, “Interest in instant runoff voting is growing rapidly. More cities and states are starting to see IRV as a viable means to save tax dollars, accommodate voters having choices and fold low-turnout elections into high-turnout, spoiler-free majority elections.  In the wake of the highly successful transition to IRV in San Francisco (CA) and Burlington, (VT) and new campaigns in cities with more than 1.6 million people in November, we expect this trend to accelerate.”

In 2004, North Carolina held a runoff election for the Democratic nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction. The election cost counties $3.5 million dollars, for a turnout of only 2 to 3% of voters. IRV would have avoided a second election, without this drop in turnout.

With IRV, instead of marking an "X" next to one candidate, voters rank them in order of preference. IRV uses voter rankings to emulate a series of runoff elections ultimately determining a winner with a majority of the vote. IRV saves time and money by eliminating the need and cost of two rounds of voting. Voters and candidates also can focus their energy on one election rather than two, typically boosting turnout.
IRV is used in dozens of colleges and universities across the country. The system has found success in cities such as San Francisco (CA) and Burlington (VT) and ballot measures moving this November in Minneapolis (MN), Oakland (CA), Davis (CA) and Pierce County (WA).

To seek comment on these issues, contact Ryan O’Donnell at (301)270-4616. For more information, visit