North Carolina General Assembly and Boards of Election
United States of America

In 2006, North Carolina's General Assembly approved a pilot program that allowed communities to test the use of the so-called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). IRV is a form of ranked-choice voting where voters casting a ballot to rank from one to three choices for each office in races with more than two candidates

The pilot program was supposed to be managed by the NC State Board of Elections, but our legislature didn’t appropriate any extra funding. Several non-profit advocacy groups took advantage of that funding vacuum to “assume” a great deal of responsibility for the IRV pilot program. Two non-profits even paid for an SBOE staffer to travel overseas to observe Scottish ranked choice elections. No one kept track of the value of all that in-kind “volunteer” support.

The political parties were not allowed to participate in the planning of the IRV pilot. Before the elections, political party leaders asked for but were not provided with information before the election about how the program would be conducted and evaluated.

Many communities were asked to participate, but most refused outright. 4 voted NO, but only 2 - Cary and Hendersonville – participated in the IRV pilot in 2007. Only one single contest in Cary involving a little more than 3000 votes in 8 precincts went to the instant runoff. That is statistically insignificant compared to 5.8 million voters in 2800 precincts in 548 municipalities in North Carolina’s 100 counties! Supporters claim the pilot was a success, but no counties volunteered to participate in the 2008 pilot.

NC passed some of the nation’s toughest election laws in 2005 after paperless DRE touchscreen voting machines lost thousands of Carteret County votes in the 2004 General Election. Our highly praised and hard-won election laws created tough standards that are key to protecting 5.8 million North Carolina voters from harm caused by uncertified software, counting errors, and unscrupulous vendors.

But now those standards are under attack from IRV that is being misrepresented as election reform. IRV advocates want IRV to be an option for the future, and are asking the General Assembly to extend and expand the IRV pilot. Many of their claims about IRV are simply not true once you look beyond the hype and the sophistry.

IRV does not ensure majority winners in one single election. The winner of our state’s single "instant runoff" contest took office with 1401 votes – less than 50% plus one vote (1512) of the 3022 votes cast. Our state’s current election equipment won’t tabulate IRV ballots, so the IRV ballots had to be tabulated by hand with workarounds that violated state election laws. And one small error in that tabulation cascaded info a recount that was done another day when the public could not observe it. In the 20 IRV elections in San Francisco held since adopting IRV, any elections going into an IRV “runoff” were won with less than a majority.

IRV only saves money if you consider nothing more than a single IRV election being cheaper than two elections (original plus runoff). While runoff elections are very rarely needed, IRV would require new & more expensive programming, additional voter education and training for poll workers and election administrators, and increased ballot printing expenditures. Candidates would need to spend time and money educating voters. We might need to purchase new voting machines. All those costs would have to be paid for even if no races ever required an instant runoff!

Other states have considered and rejected IRV once they researched the high costs of implementation – something our state has yet to estimate. MD estimated costs of $3.08 to $3.52 per registered voter for start-up costs, and 48 cents per voter every subsequent election year. Once you factor the extra costs of implementation and administration of IRV for all our 5.8 million registered voters, NC might need to spend $18 million up front to implement IRV and millions every election year thereafter. Over a 33 year time frame that adds up to an additional $40 million above and beyond the cost of holding rarely needed runoff elections.

IRV supporters claim that we could have avoided the June 24 statewide runoff by using IRV in the May primary. As far back as March 2007 our own State Board of Elections considered IRV too risky to use in the May 2008 primary due to heavy turnout in the Democratic primary and the use of the new Same Day Registration at Early Voting sites. Had NC used IRV in the May 2008, we might have suffered a Florida-style election meltdown.

IRV supporters claim that many people and organizations support IRV, but how many of know both sides of the issue? And how many more oppose IRV in silence?

You won’t hear IRV advocates tell you how hard a hard time they had getting two out of 548 NC municipalities to be IRV guinea pigs. They won’t tell you that 4 municipalities voted not to participate in the IRV pilot once they knew about the risks. What did those 4 know about IRV that the other two didn’t know? Those 4 knew the risks and got public feedback before taking their votes.

The delegates to 4 US Congressional District Conventions for the North Carolina Democratic Party passed Resolutions Opposing IRV – and two of those districts include Wake County – one of the two counties where IRV was used in 2007. Two Districts passed a resolution Supporting IRV, but they both originated in counties that did not use IRV in any elections.

Protecting our democracy by keeping our verified voting standards is not a special or partisan issue. North Carolina voters of every background (republican, democrat, liberal, conservative, disabled groups, minority groups, mainstream groups) agree that we do not want any changes to our voting which may, in any way, compromise the integrity of our votes. Please join in our effort to halt IRV in NC. Ask your friend to do so too.


We the undersigned oppose the extension of the IRV pilot program under any circumstances because IRV has endangered election integrity and public confidence in elections in North Carolina.

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