Cary backs off IRV

One reason I find  local government so interesting is that you sometimes can’t predict what they’ll do. The Cary Town Council held a public hearing on Instant Runoff Voting last night. More than a dozen town citizens spoke in favor of continuing the pilot program.

After a long and I though rather thoughtful discussion, in which several council members commented that the public supported IRV, the council voted to  discontinue the pilot and change the town’s voting system to a “non-partisan plurality.” This means one election in October, most-votes-wins, even if the voter has well below a majority.

Rather than taking another step toward improving the electoral system, the council took a step back.


  1. I cannot support IRV because of issues in how IRV is counted. In the NC Pilot, IRV votes will not be counted where cast, votes will be cast but many 2nd and 3rd choice votes will not ever be counted nor reported to the public.

    Hauling ballots around before counting them is a bad idea, which is why our state bans that practice.

    NC adopted the type of IRV that is known as “top two batch elimination” IRV, also known as Sri Lanken Contingency Voting. In the first round, if there is no majority, then the top two candidates will continue on. Then only 2nd or 3rd choice votes for these top two candidates will be considered. The other 2nd and 3rd choice votes would never be counted nor reported.

    I could more readily support Fusion voting which actually works to strengthen third parties, can be counted where cast, and does not require complex software.

  2. Fusion voting isn’t relevant to Cary and many other NC cities, as they are nonpartisan.

    The question for Cary is whether it will maintain the majority principle. If it decides to go to a one-round plurality vote (the only other option to IRV right now, as they decided not to do runoffs), the candidate in first may be the most unpopular candidate in the race. IRV ensures that the candidate in the top two who has the most support will win. That’s fairer.

    The vote-count issues can be dealt with — and I heard are in Cary with new ways of doing all the counting on optical scan machines.

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