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North Carolina Forward Party Examines Runoff Election Costs and Impacts, Calls for Voting Reform


RALEIGH, N.C. – With several runoff elections currently underway in North Carolina, the North Carolina Forward Party sought to explore the costs and impacts of these elections on candidates, voters, and taxpayers. In an effort to gauge candidate perspectives on the issue, the party reached out to those participating in the current runoff elections with a questionnaire that asked about the costs of runoffs, term limits, and how candidates plan to ensure they represent all constituents if elected.

The NC Forward Party believes that the current runoff system exemplifies the inefficiencies and waste plaguing our electoral process. Runoffs require candidates to spend additional resources on campaigns and the state to bear the cost of setting up and running additional elections, often with dramatically reduced voter turnout. This drains both financial and political capital that could be better spent addressing constituents' pressing needs. The party has also reached out to the North Carolina Board of Elections to inquire about the cost to the state of running these runoffs but has not yet received a response.

The following candidates were contacted to participate in the questionnaire:

  • US Congressional District 13 (R):
    • Kelly Daughtry
    • Brad Knott
  • NC Lt. Governor (R):
    • Hal Weatherman
    • Jim O'Neill
  • NC State Auditor (R):
    • Jack Clark (responded)
    • Dave Boliek

While only one candidate, Jack Clark, provided responses to the questionnaire, his thoughtful answers highlight the potential benefits of alternative voting systems, such as instant runoffs (ranked-choice voting) and approval voting, in reducing polarization. However, he also notes the associated logistical challenges and costs, emphasizing the need for a carefully considered transition process.

In 2007, during a pilot program for ranked-choice voting in North Carolina, voters could mark their first, second, and third choices on their ballots to enable an instant runoff if no candidate won a majority. This new voting method, as reported by WRAL, allowed Cary to save over $60,000 by avoiding a traditional runoff, an amount that would be equivalent to approximately $83,669 today.

The NC Forward Party’s interest in exploring alternatives to traditional runoff elections aligns with a growing national conversation about the merits of ranked-choice voting, as discussed in a recent article by Carolina Public Press. We believe that reforming our electoral system, including the adoption of instant runoffs and open primaries, would not only lead to significant cost savings but also help counter the polarization that plagues our politics.

A study by More in Common called “The Perception Gap” found that Americans often have a distorted understanding of each other, with Democrats and Republicans imagining almost twice as many of their political opponents holding “extreme” views as reality.

By creating a system that encourages candidates to appeal to a broader range of voters, rather than catering to political extremes, we can foster a more collaborative political environment that reflects the shared values of most Americans. The NC Forward Party invites all those who share this vision to join in the essential work of building a more inclusive, efficient, and responsive political system for our state and nation.

Jack Clark NC Forward Runoff Questionnaire Responses

  • Do you support implementing instant runoffs, also known as ranked choice voting, in North Carolina? Why or why not?
    • RCV should certainly be in the conversation. The current FPTP system has incentivized excessive polarization that alternate systems can ameliorate.
    • I do have concerns about RCV:
      • Would we have had a ballot with 14 columns for the 14 candidates who ran in the 13th district primary?
      • We would need to get new voting tabulators, educate the voters intensively, prepare time consuming audit procedures, and otherwise have a major transition period.
    • I would prefer approval voting, which is simpler, requires minimal transition cost, avoids voter confusion, effectively lessens polarization, etc.
  • What do you estimate the cost of the runoff will be for your campaign?
    • This is confidential strategic information, but it’s going to be a good chunk of money.
  • Do you see any added value, for your campaign or the voters, in having this runoff instead of instant runoffs?
    • I can see some value in determining which candidates have the most dedicated supporters. Also, since there are very few candidates on the ballot, research is easier.
    • However, all candidates are going to receive substantially fewer votes in the runoff than in the first primary. That seems disappointing. Also, most voters want to be done with the primaries as much as the candidates.
  • Do you believe term limits would improve the effectiveness of the US Congress? Why or why not?
    • I absolutely, 100% support term limits. It could be a long time – perhaps 18 years (one generation), but no one should spend a full career in Congress.
  • How do you plan to ensure that the voices of all your constituents are heard and represented, regardless of their political affiliation?
    • State Auditor is very much like a judge; I will be impartial, free of bias, and look for the facts. My entire campaign has been based around my audit experience and objective mindset.
    • Auditors must be free of bias in appearance and fact. I will avoid overly partisan behavior and anchor my work on what is best for the taxpayer.