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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Durham Community leaders oppose Instant Runoff Voting at City Council Meeting

Instant runoff voting was not on the agenda at the Durham City Council meeting last night, but opposing it was on the minds of local community leaders. Further, one very influential leader threatened legal action if Durham City Council decided to try for Instant Runoff Voting. On April 6, the City Council after hearing comments from the public and voted 7-0 to keep Durham's current runoff system. The city had been considering a switch to "non partisan plurality" in order to avoid expensive runoff elections. The Raleigh News and Observer ran a brief article:
Durham council lets elections be Change to plurality system rejected By Jim Wise - Tue, Apr. 07, 2009
The N&O reported that the majority of folks wanted to keep the current traditional runoff system, and also that some citizens suggested instant runoff voting. The report failed to tell you that two of the most influential people at that meeting spoke strongly against against instant runoff voting.

What the News and Observer didn't report was what community leaders had to say in opposition to Instant Runoff Voting. Dr. Lavonia Allison, president of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, and the NC State Democratic Party Vice Chair Stella Adams had plenty to say. Both are influential leaders who voiced their strong opposition to instant runoff voting. Here is an excerpt of their comments, transcribed from video. Its pretty much to-the-point:

You can see video of the meeting at the Durham County City Govt website. There's a drop down list where you can jump right to the part of the agenda discussing Durham's elections:

44. Proposed City Charter Amendment to Change the Process of Conducting Durham Municipal Elections

Dr. Lavonia Allison - President of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People (around 2:49)
"I stand opposed to this. Democracy is an open process, you should not come up with any process which we limit participatory democracy. This whole idea is that voting is a landmark of the people… even if its expensive. We spend a whole a lot of money on…..
Just vote it down (non partisan plurality elections).
I’m not going to be for instant runoff voting either, because I’ve got a whole lot of things to say about that too.."

Stella Adams - Vice Chair of NC Democratic Party (around 3:02)
"I am here to speak, to inform and then to speak. I was an elected official in Durham 20 years ago and I …the Soil and Water races are local races that are plurality races…so and my daughter Danielle was elected in November in a plurality race… So it is not a new form of election in Durham County.. That’s just a fact.. I m not supporting or opposing.

But I am here, to absolutely put it on the record that I am absolutely to the core opposed to instant runoff voting. And I believe that the issue of Instant runoff voting has clouded the discussions. And I want to make it very clear that that will cost the city money, not save the city money. Because I promise you that I will be protecting my right to vote, with legal action should you choose to do that. .

People in my family have died for the right to the vote I mean buried in their graves for the right to vote… My aunt was denied the vote because she could not explain Article 3 of the constitution. Through a poll, a literacy test. We have a family ritual that which we will carry out on May 6 of this year, when my son turns 18 and we walk our children to register to vote. And we tell them that history.
Instant runoff voting disenfranchises black people, And I will fight to protect that.
NO to instant runoff voting!"

This took my breath away. Fierce defenders of our vote, thank you, and thank you especially to Stella Adams, who recognizes and who meets threats to the vote head on. Voters have a fierce advocate in Ms. Adams.