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Sunday, December 26, 2010

N.Carolina's Statewide Instant Runoff Voting Contest - the facts, the regrets

48 days after the election, instant runoff voting produced a "winner" for the NC Court of Appeals, for the  "Wynn"seat. Thanks to IRV, an experimental tallying method was used, the election was almost a tie, a recount was called for, and we had a plurality result, not a majority win.

After counting the IRV votes,  the highest vote getter lost his 100,000 vote lead, and the contest became so close that a recount was requested. The declared winner won with 28% of votes from all ballots cast on election day. We do not know how many 2nd and 3rd choice votes each candidate got, as this data was not released to the public.

(Click on the above picture to enlarge.)

Footnotes to spreadsheet/chart:
[1] State BoE First Round results Nov 2, 2010 (page 20)
[2] State BoE IRV results Dec 13 2010  (screen shot)
[3] State BoE IRV results after recount

The reason for using IRV in this election:
"NC Court of Appeals Judge Wynn was elevated to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court o Appeals. Under the NC Constitution, the vacant office must be filled by an election this November. Thirteen candidates are running for the office. Too late to hold a primary, under NC law, this election will use an Instant Runoff Voting method. Voters indicate who they prefer among the candidates at the "instant" they vote, by ranking as many as three choices 1, 2, and 3. If your 1st choice loses, your 2nd or 3rd choice could determine who wins. Bobby Coggins.(blog)

There were 13 candidates in this non partisan contest and there was no primary. Candidates had access to public funding for their campaigns, but the limited funds had to be shared amongst a large field.

In the first round, Cressie Thigpen (D) was leading Doug McCullough (R) by 100,000 votes.

The top 2 candidates advanced to a runoff. The ballots were counted based on whether they ranked Thigpen or McCullough higher. 45% of those who voted in the Court of Appeals races voted for neither. 2nd and 3rd choice votes for Thigpen & McCullough were added, erasing Thigpen's 100,000 vote lead and putting McCullough about 6,500 votes ahead.

With IRV votes tallied, McCullough won with 28% of all voters' ballots cast on election day.The election was so close that Thigpen called for a recount. This was done by machine so it was no surprise that the results changed only slightly. Thigpen went down 120 votes, from 537,445 to 537,325. McCullough went down 43 votes, from 544,023 to 543,980. McCullough won by 6,655 votes.

McCullough got 19.7% of transfers, Thigpen 11.2%, and nobody 69.2%

The Democrat-registered incumbent appointed by a Democratic governor got a large share of the vote. But there were so many other Democratic candidates, that they weren't likely to result in many successful transfers, especially since the ballot instructions said simply to vote for the candidates in order of your preference - and not vote strategically so your ballot would not be stuck in the trash dumpster. 2.7 million voters went to the polls in November. Only 1.1 million had their vote count in December.

There were fewer Republican candidates, so there was a much greater chance of the vote counting, if you could just get voters to fill out the ballot. And there were more Republican voters in the first place.

News and Opinion:

Raleigh News & Observer, December 24, 2010. Instant analysis

Gary Robertson.AP. December 20, 2010. Concession after N.C. Court of Appeals recount widens lead

Doug Clark. Greensboro News & Record. December 16, 2010. Weak defense of IRV

Reid Overcash. News&Press.December 16,2010 “Instant Runoff Vote” loses its appeal when put to test

Gary Pearce.Talking About Politics. December 16, 2010 Instant Runoff, Eternal Confusion

Rocky Mount Telegram December 13, 2010 Instant runoff voting runs into issues, too.
That was one ugly way to elect a judge.

Charlotte Observer Dec. 13, 2010 Not best way to boost confidence in elections
Instant Runoff Voting was alot faster than the counting.

AP. Raleigh News & Observer December 9, 2010 Judge Thigpen wants Appeals race recount

Doug Clark. Greensboro News & Record. December 9, 2010 Editorial: Instant runoff failure

Gary Robertson. AP News. December 6, 2010 McCullough overtakes Thigpen in NC court race

Tom Sullivan. Scrutiny Hooligans. November 9, 2010. Short Cuts. 

Andrea Pacetti. News 14. October 28, 2010. Board of Elections decides how to count instant runoff votes (changes tallying method)

Bobby Coggins. October 19, 2010. 2010 Election and this IRV ballot for NC Appeals Court.

Sara Burrows. Carolina Journal. September 29, 2010 How the Instant Runoff for State Court of Appeals Will Work

North Carolina State Board of Elections. September 29, 2010 Meeting on Tallying IRV

Bobby Coggins. September 20, 2010. Instant Runoff Voting Strategy for NC Court of Appeals.

Joyce McCloy. IRVbad4NC blog. September 19, 2010.  2 Simple Rules for Voters in Instant Runoff Voting for NC Court of Appeals

Charlotte Observer September 9, 2010. Potential mess looms in judicial election

BY ROBERT ORR. Raleigh News & Observer September 5, 2010. Order in the court election!

Doug Clark. Greensboro News-Record September 3, 2010. Editorial: On the wrong track

Raleigh News & Observer. September 3, 2010. Test vote

Doug Clark. Greensboro News and Record. August 31, 2010. Lucky 13

GARY D. ROBERTSON AP. August 31, 2010. 13 candidates file for open NC appeals court job

ES&S and PrintElect voting machine co. August 31, 2010. Vendor letter on legal issues with NC Court of Appeals Instant Runoff Voting

§ 163-329.  Elections to fill vacancy in office created after primary filing period opens.

Sri Lanka Contingent Vote (method used in North Carolina)

Wikipedia Article on this contest,_2010#Court_of_Appeals_.28Wynn_seat.29

If you have other analysis on this contest, we'd love to hear from you. Comments on this blog are blocked but you can email me at joyce (at) ncvoter (dot) net

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