Thursday, September 09, 2004

Luebke's Big Idea

The Wilmington Star-News (Motto: The Voice of Southeastern North Carolina, Submotto: Screw You Fayetteville) ran an interesting editorial yesterday about NC Representative Paul Luebke's (D-Durham) desire to introduce a bill to move primary election to an "instant runoff" system.

Essentially, the idea would ask voters to vote for two candidates on a primary day when three or more candidates were running for a given office. They would rank them in order of preference. If no candidate got enough "1st place" votes (under North Carolina's current system, you'd need 40% to avoid a runoff), then "2nd place" votes would instantly determine the outcome by being added to the top two vote-getters "1st place" votes. Then, whoever had the most total votes would win.

The edit rightly points out that such a system would eliminate the ridiculous drop-off in voter turnout between primaries and primary runoffs. More than that, it could quite possibly lead to more voters getting a nominee that is closer to their preferences.

Imagine a three-way Democratic primary. Candidate X is a fire-breathing liberal, Candidate Y is a left-of-center kind of guy, and Candidate Z is pretty conservative. In the primary, X gets 2000 votes, Y gets 3100 and Z gets 3000. Under the current system, Y and Z would go to a runoff a couple of weeks later. Assume several thousand less people vote (this is a pretty good bet), and Z wins 800 to 600. Even though a wide majority of the voters in the original primary wanted a left-of-center candidate of one type or another, that is not at all what they got.

Under Luebke's proposal, its very likely that nearly everyone who put in "1" votes for X would put in "2" votes for Y. Likewise, people who vote first for Z would probably prefer Y next. Y's supporter's second place votes might be split between the two other candidates. In any event, the probable result of the instant runoff would be Y receiving 8100 total votes (first place plus second place) to Z's 4550.

The bottom line, at least in the hypothetical, is that more people get a nominee who is closer to their own ideology.


At September 10, 2004 at 3:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has absolutely no bearing on Dan's story, but hey it's NC news...

WTVD/Survey USA poll

Bush 50%, Kerry 47%
Easley 54%, Ballantine 39%
Bowles 50%, Burr 40%

I think its safe to say Ballantine's pretty much crushed and Burr appears to be sliding a little. It's also interesting that the NC and Ohio polls released today have EXACTLY the same results. If Kerry can be this close in the Tarheel State after the pretty much disastrous August he had nationally, why'd we get downgraded to "second tier battleground state"?

pondering the imponderables,



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