Still think IRV helps minority voters or candidates?

Five candidates filed so far.... of Friday, August 27, 2010. Governor Perdue appointed Cressie Thigpen to the seat! Thigpen has announced that he will file for the seat, but he hasn't done so yet. So if Judge Thigpen files for the seat, it'll be a 6-way "ClusterF@#k"!

J. Wesley Casteen

Chris Dillon

Stan Hammer

Mark E. Klass

Doug McCullough

Let's look at some stats:

D - 2
R - 2
U - 1

If Judge Thigpen runs, there will be 3 Dems.

Now you know IRV is supposed to do wonderful things for minorities. Does it?

Men - 5
Women - 0
% of women in NC in 2009 - 51%,
% of women in the Court of Appeals race - 0%
With Thigpen, there will still be 0% women running.

White - 5
Black - 0
Hispanic -0
% of whites - 100%
% of blacks - 0%
% of blacks if Thigpen runs - 16.67%. But blacks make up 21.6% of the population

Still think IRV helps minorities?


Instant Runoff Voting and Civil Rights

Another issue with instant runoff voting that you need to know about.

we can either whine and complain

This is going to happen, no if ands or buts. We can whine and complain all we want or we can make sure that the voters out there are informed on how it works and make sure a Democrat gets elected.

Or we can file suit and make sure this method isn't used now?

Look - the SBOE has admitted that we don't have software that can count this type of voting method. They know that it's risky to try and do this on any sort of statewide election for a couple of reasons - mainly that it violates other state and federal election laws and regulations.

We can't even make sure that these votes can and will be counted correctly.

Our current software will only count the first column votes at the place where they are cast until the counting is finished, and only provide over-vote notification of those first column votes. That's what state and federal law requires.

We can't count those 2nd and 3rd column votes where they are cast, and we can't count overvotes in the 2nd or 3rd columns (more than one vote in each column) or overvotes between columns (voting for the same candidate more than once like in the 1st & 2nd, 1st & 3rd, and 2nd & 3rd). There is no way to let the voter know that they have over-voted in the 2nd and/or 3rd columns. Another reason for requiring that all votes are counted where they are cast before they are moved is to prevent ballot tampering AFTER the voter casts a vote. We can prevent that in the first column, but all someone has to do is mark an overvote in the 2nd or 3rd column and they can rob a candidate of votes. And since election day ballots aren't retrievable, there's no way to know what happened.

With DRE touchscreen machines, the only way that the 2nd and 3rd column votes can be counted is to port them over to an MS Excel spreadsheet - and that method is not certified either. There isn't anyone who is an expert in election integrity, computer science, or even spreadsheet usage who thinks that's a good idea.

The election bus is heading towards a cliff and the wheels are coming off. I'd rather stop the bus and arrange for alternative transportation instead of trying to keep using this particular bus. But the SBOE knew the bus wasn't ready for passengers, but they feel obligated to this particular bus. I fear for the safety of the passengers, and their confidence in riding buses in the future even if the bus doesn't go over the cliff.

One way for the election "bus" not to go over the cliff is if everyone can get on and off before the cliff (meaning they vote, and we get a first round winner without having to count the 2nd or 3rd column votes).

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting


You might have some valid points to raise in opposition to IRV, but this is not one of them. The method of voting in an election cannot control the gender or race of candidates.

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

So why do IRV advocates claim that IRV helps minorities?

IRV advocates like FairVote and DemocracyNC make that claim all the time. Check it out!

Anita Earls (civil rights attorney, FairVoteNC board member, and employer of former FairVoteNC employee Elena Everett) made such a claim at the NC Legislature in 2008 when they were trying to extend the original IRV pilot. NC Rep Angela Brant asked her to provide a single instance where this happened, and Earls promised to get her that info.

I see Rep Bryant every so often at the GA, and I ask her if Earls ever got her that info. It's late August 2010, and still no info.

So if there is no way that IRV helps elect minority candidates, why do you think they make that claim? You are essentially agreeing with the verified voting community that IRV doesn't do the things supporters claim it does.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Think of a time line

An event that happens at the right end of the timeline (the voting method) cannot be expected to influence an event at the left end (the beginning) of the timeline (candidate filing).

You are essentially agreeing with the verified voting community that IRV doesn't do the things supporters claim it does.

No, I am saying that your logic, in this case, is flawed. If you wish to make progress in your cause, your arguement as stated in the OP is counterproductive.

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

No - the argument stated in the OP is just fine

IRV doesn't help minorities, unlike that claims made by pro-IRV groups.

I have seen some candidates not file because they don't want to challenge someone in a primary election. And that's an election process they know about. Imagine what it would be like for IRV?

And I have seen some IRV elections where merely having to participate in an IRV election scared off candidates. It happened in Cary in 2007. One candidate who already filed (early) saw that there were 4 candidates in the race. Two of them bowed out and one said that she didn't want to be in the race if IRV would screw up Erv Portman's chances of holding onto a seat he had been appointed to earlier.

Your time-line example is perfect for refuting those pro-IRV claims.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

IRV Voting

While IRV voting might be useful in a primary for a variety of reasons, it makes no sense to use it in a general election judicial "crap shoot". The simple solution to the plurality election of a judicial candidate that nobody knows, is to let the party executive committees appoint a nominee for the general election and then let them run nonpartisan in the general. In the case of the Wynn seat, one would assume that the Democrats would nominate Cressy Thigpen since the Governor appointed him. The Republicans would likely nominate Doug McCullough since he has previously been on the COA. Thus you would have two well qualified candidates and have eliminated the prospects of a mystery candidate with potentially minimal credentials getting elected. I've also heard that the Voter Guide has already been printed, so all these candidates will probably be without public financing and minimal information provided to voters. May the best name win!!! Change the system.

There is gonna be a problem with public financing

They have a 4 week window to qualify that starts tomorrow. So what if any voter education will be able to take place as part of their campaign that won't be coordinated by state party?

The NCDP can publish voter guides with info about candidates and how to vote IRV without getting the candidates in trouble. This is yet again one more reason why I urged the party to study IRV from 2008 on. But they never did - more heads in the sand!

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Please don't conflate IRV with multicandidate

I don't see how the choice of balloting type can be a cause of multiple candidates seeking the election, or of the gender or race of those candidates.

Seems like apples and oranges.

Incidentally, I am supporting Stan Hammer in this race. Much of what I learned about practicing law ethically I learned from Stan. He's a fine lawyer, an experienced litigator and mediator, and a strong candidate. He's volunteered for the ACLU, defended death penalty cases and handled a sophisticated corporate litigation practice as a partner in a very solid law firm that had really good taste in associates in 1999. :-)

The latest candidate list is:


CASTEEN, JOHN WESLEY JR J. Wesley Casteen 08/27/2010 PO BOX 12028 WILMINGTON, NC 28405

DILLON, ROBERT CHRISTOPHER Chris Dillon 08/25/2010 PO BOX 20255 RALEIGH, NC 27619

FARLOW, JEWEL ANN Jewel Ann Farlow 08/30/2010 201 WEST MARKET ST, SUITE 402 GREENSBORO, NC 27401


KLASS, MARK E Mark E. Klass 08/26/2010 PO BOX 1343 LEXINGTON, NC 27293-134

MCCULLOUGH, JOHN DOUGLAS Doug McCullough 08/27/2010 PO BOX 2276 ATLANTIC BEACH, NC 28512

MIDDLETON, ANNE Anne Middleton 08/30/2010 PO BOX 12094 RALEIGH, NC 27605

THIGPEN, CRESSIE Cressie Thigpen 08/30/2010 PO BOX 2515

I had heard Wake County Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan might run, but maybe Cressie Thigpen's appointment caused him to reconsider. Both are fine judges.

Please give Stan a look when he gets out there. Right now, all these folks are raising money to qualify for public financing. If you'd like to help an experienced and ethical attorney, please let me know, and I will put you in touch with Stan.



"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

What do you mean IRV vs. multicandidate?

If you read the pro-IRV propaganda from groups like FairVote (I call them FairyTaleVote) and DemocracyNC, they claim that IRV helps minorities by encouraging more of them to run. And I don't believe that the ballot style or voting method makes much difference on that - but I am just saying that's what THEY claim IRV does.

You gotta support someone for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. You can't just support one candidate - you are throwing your vote away.

Remember - this is top-two IRV. If Stan isn't one of the top-two, and you didn't vote for anyone else, then it's just like not showing up to a traditional runoff. And with this many candidates, it's entirely possible that you could end up casting all three of your votes for candidates who never make it to the top-two. Then it really is like you had a traditional runoff and didn't show up.

IRV doesn't allow you to make a real choice between the two-two candidates, or see how the other 6 might support in the runoff.

Voter education is key on this. Of course, with 5 months of voter education for the Cary and Hendersonville IRV elections in 2007, 25% of Cary voters and 33% of Hendersonville voters showed up at the polls and didn't know they were supposed to rank their choices. And a year later, over 30% of Cary voters didn't understand IRV.

That's in Cary. Imagine what will happen in some of North Carolina's counties with very low adult literacy levels with little to no voter education except maybe at the polling places? And that will more likely than not be done by pro-IRV groups who aren't really there to educate voters but to make sure they give good answers for the exit polls.

Then try and count this race and make some sense out of it! Good luck!

So now you know why I've been urging the state party to study IRV in an electoral reform study committee for years (at least since 2008) to see if we want to use this, or at least what sort of voter education we will need to do if we get stuck with statewide judicial IRV (we've had that chance since 2006).

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

The mechanics are irrelevant

What is relevant is who you want to win the seat.
You have to make the case for THE CORRECT CANDIDATE.
*AFTER* that, you educate as necessary to maximize that
candidate's chances of winning. The mechanics do NOT
affect any particular kind of candidate more than any other
except by the way shared support support happens to break down, or the way mis-education happens to (demographically) split among the bases of different candidates.

In this particular race, in this particular case, these mechanics ARE HELPFUL.
All the generic stuff about what generally typically happens is just irrelevant.

Since this is BlueNC, we all presumably want either
1) the best Democrat, or 2) the Democrat who CAN win,
TO win. Given that a good Democrat has already been appointed to the seat, it would be helpful and appropriate if leaders would lead. They should either call the governor on her mistake or should endorse the candidate she endorsed. NObody (on OUR side) gets to run (in any sense other than being legally allowed to) JUST because they feel it's the right thing for them at this point in THEIR life. THIS RACE HAS IMPLICATIONS FOR THE VIABILITY OF THE PARTY GENERALLY, as did the previous one (for Supreme Court in 2004) involving the candidate that we are now replacing.

Had this been a normal primary, this race would not even be close and everybody would already know who the favorite to win the nomination had always been (it would be the incumbent, OF COURSE). It would be a lot more helpful (in the immediate run) to try to advocate and educate in such a way as to maximize the likelihood of that candidate winning under these mechanics, THAN to invoke irrelevant theory about how evil these mechanics are.

The greatest potential evil for these mechanics does not even involve this race at all! It involves late patches to voting-machine software to handle the extra rounds,
which in turn involves more opportunities for skullduggery and black-box voting generally, including in ways that affect OTHER races.

Those of us who care both about verified voting and the outcome of this race are in the difficult position of having one goal be fundamentally in opposition to the other. If this race has the correct outcome under these mechanics, then we-with-this-bad-system have dodged a bullet, and its success -- however unlikely -- makes it harder for us to advocate fixing it. If this race has the wrong outcome, then there may be more impetus toward fixing the law, but we will still have been deprived of the best judge, and the party will still suffer from diminished unity between core constituencies.

Making the right argument the first time

It sounds like several of Chris' concerns shouldn't speak for the whole concept of IRV.

1) Voting for an underdog seldom pans out in any election system, so there's no reason to blame IRV for a person's decision to rank three people who wouldn't win. IRV is about reducing the gamesmanship under winner-takes-all that requires people to vote defensively ("lesser of two evils" voting) if they want to prevent their least-favorite candidate from winning.
2) Re. claims of improving election rates for minority candidates, the closest your cited article comes to making that claim is this: "In fact, much of the data shows that in some races IRV has been directly beneficial for racial minority voters and candidates by allowing them to use the ranked ballots to form ad-hoc voter coalitions." The key words here are "in some races" - that's not the same as "in every situation, we promise more minorities will be elected." What the report you cited actually claims is that minorities are not disenfranchised by IRV, a claim that matters a lot in the context of real voting shenanigans from the 60s and beyond.
3) You most certainly may vote for just one person and not throw your vote away. For example, if I'd cast an IRV ballot in 2008 for Barack Obama (hypothetically speaking), I think my ballot would have turned out just fine without a second choice.

As for another of Chris' concerns - voter comprehension of IRV - I'm not sure how he draws the conclusion that so many voters didn't understand the system. Looking at Professor Cobb's survey results (available at, it seems that in every survey listed there, at least 85 percent of those surveyed said IRV was very or somewhat easy to understand.

Chris and I can agree on one thing, for sure: more planning and voter education would seem to be appropriate. That being said, I think his frustration is somewhat misplaced.