Advocates of ranked choice voting will discuss how it could work in NC. How to go.

Susan Spring/

Winning a primary election in North Carolina requires candidates to win only more than 30% of the vote.

Supporters of ranked choice voting, an alternative voting method that has grown increasingly popular across the country in recent years, argue that is wrong. They say it sets up a system in which candidates don’t have to campaign to a wide swath of the electorate, and in the end, the majority of voters are unhappy with the winner of the election.

Under RCV, instead of voting for a single candidate, voters rank all of the candidates on the ballot in order of their preference.

Candidates must win more than 50% of the vote to win an election. If none of the candidates are backed by a majority of voters, then the candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated from the race, and the people who cast ballots for that person have their votes count for the candidate they marked as their second preference. This continues until a candidate has earned a majority of votes.

Better Ballot North Carolina, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about RCV with the goal of bringing the voting method to more elections in the state, argues that ranked choice voting is more democratic, since it requires the winning candidate to be preferred by a majority of voters, even in crowded or close races with multiple candidates.

Other arguments in favor of RCV include that candidates campaigning for a greater number of voters will lead to less negative campaigning, and that it’s better for voters to indicate their preferences the first time and avoid costly runoff elections that usually see less turnout.

On Monday and Tuesday, the nonprofit is hosting two conversations about RCV and how it can improve the current system of voting in North Carolina, at East Carolina University and Duke University.

The panels will feature David Daley, a political journalist and senior fellow at FairVote, a national organization that is a leading proponent of RCV, and speakers from BBNC.

The first panel, held at ECU, will take place in Room 249 of the Main Campus Student Center, on Feb. 6 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The second one, held at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, will take place at Geneen Auditorium, on Feb. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Attending the panels doesn’t require an RSVP, but you can do so at

History of RCV in North Carolina

RCV isn’t new in North Carolina, but has yet to be adopted widely, or for high-profile statewide or federal races, as some other states have done.

In October 2007, Cary used ranked choice for its town council election, as part of a pilot program approved by state lawmakers.

Hendersonville followed, using the method for its city council elections in 2007 and 2009, and in 2010, RCV was used in a statewide Court of Appeals race that featured 13 candidates on the ballot, according to FairVote.

After the primary elections last May, Gary Bartlett, the executive director of the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center, and a former 20-year director of the State Board of Elections, called for the state to use RCV in its elections.

In an op-ed for the Charlotte Observer, Bartlett observed that in multiple high-profile congressional primaries, the winning candidate advanced to the general election having won slightly over 30% of the vote.

There are other voting methods as well, Bartlett noted, but he said that RCV “yields majority winners with a larger mandate to govern and gives voters more choice and voice.”

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