No matter who we here at BCR ask, we seem to get one clear, consensus answer about the impact of the proposed elimination of primaries in this fall's municipal election:
No one really seems to know.
Or at least, no one's quite sure what the impact would be in this fall's election, which features a number of incumbents with pretty steady re-election track records -- or at least fairly strong apparent community support. Would this change lead to the ability of a third candidate to split voting bases, leading to upsets or unconventional outcomes? Would it create a throng of candidates vying to be what the Romans might have called (with different meaning) primum inter pares -- the squeaker first place out of relative equals?
Or might we just see the outcome that the dry-witted and übercompetent Durham election czar Mike Ashe noted, with Durham getting great leaders and lousy leaders from the same election process?
Monday night, we'll get to hear the public's opinion on the matter at City Hall, with the item appearing on the City Council agenda for the splendid seven to consider. In that spirit, the League of Women Voters is holding an a public forum at 7pm tonight at the downtown main library to discuss the proposed change, and what it could mean for the Bull City.
As the LWV notes in their press release, the proposal at hand for Durham is not the same as the instant run-off voting method that Cary and Hendersonville have piloted. In the so-called IRV system, voters rank their choices, with their back-up choices counted in the event no candidate reaches the required threshold, thus eliminating the need for a costly run-off election.
In Durham's case, the proposed method would be a simple plurality. Win more votes than all the other candidates running and you get the seat. Whether you accomplish that with 51% of the vote or 15% of the vote depends on how many candidates are running and how much parity there is between their draw.
Tonight's LWV panel will include:
- Donald L. Horowitz, James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science
- Robert P. Joyce, UNC Professor of Public Law and Government
- Torrey Dixon of FairVoteNC
- Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy NC