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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Instant Runoff Voting, NC Court of Appeals, the Bad News and the Good News

The bad news is that it looks like IRV will be used for a statewide contest combined with regular voting. IRV can't be tallied at polling places and machines can't count it so I have no idea how it will/can be counted. The good news is that the would be victims of this potential fiasco are attorneys/jurists and we may see some lively court action if things go wrong.

Editorial: One in, two still to go
TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 2010 Greensboro News-Record
James Wynn is in; Albert Diaz and Catherine Eagles may as well go to thebeach. They have to wait for the Senate to return from its long summervacation for their judicial confirmations.

Wynn, a judge on the N.C. Court of Appeals, was one of a handful of nominees for the federal bench approved by unanimous consent in the last hours of Senate activity before it adjourned last week. The Senate won't resume work until Sept. 13.

The rest of the story is that Wynn's promotion will create a vacancy on the N.C. Court of Appeals in time for the state to hold a special election to determine his successor. It will occur at the same time as the general election in November, but under new rules.

For elections to fill a judicial vacancy when there's no time to hold a primary, a 2006 state law creates "instant runoff voting" in case there are more than two candidates and none receives a majority of the vote. Under this scheme, voters are asked to rank their top three choices in order of preference, and a second round of counting determines the winner.

This will prove to be impossibly confusing to voters, many of whom have trouble deciding even one candidate they think is most qualified. Ranking three is likely to require guesswork. It would be better if the law allowed the governor to appoint a replacement to serve until the next election, when candidates then could run on a normal schedule. That's what would happen if this vacancy occurred after Sept. 3.

Popular election is not the best way of selecting judges anyway, and instant runoff voting won't make an improvement. But the federal system has its flaws as well — especially when partisan politics subjects qualified nominees to long delays.