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Council approves instant runoff for next city election

John Harbin // Published April 10, 2009 in Times-News

The Hendersonville, NC City Council voted 4-1 to renew their participation in the state's instant runoff voting pilot project.

The Hendersonville City Council voted 4 to 1 to use the instant runoff voting method in this year’s election.

The city took part in the pilot voting program in 2007. Instant runoff allows voters to rank the candidates for an office in order of preference, eliminating the need for a runoff election.

Hendersonville City Attorney Sam Fritschner explained that through a City Council request, he researched how to get Hendersonville to use the instant runoff method again.

Fritschner explained to the council that to be included in the instant runoff vote this year, the council would have to agree to set up voter education programs, perform exit polling on how the voting went and complete a form about the cost incurred and saved by using the program.

“I was elected under the process,” Councilman Steve Carkaer said. “In information I have received since then, I feel this system needs more trial. I will vote against it.”

Councilman Bill O’Cain said he spoke to the county’s Board of Elections and his concern of not having a paper trail was put to rest.

“I like the idea of a separate primary and general election,” Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Volk said. “I did some Internet research beyond some groups who feel one way or another. I found that other countries such as Australia have been using this method for years with no problems. I am willing to try it again.”

Councilman Jeff Collis said he felt like it seemed to work well during the 2007 election.

O’Cain made the motion to have Hendersonville use the instant runoff voting method. The motion passed with Caraker voting against the motion.

After the 2007 election, Hendersonville voters said instant runoff voting was easy to understand and they preferred the process of ranking candidates on a single ballot instead of voting for two candidates and potentially having to vote in a runoff. Using the runoff method eliminates the need for a primary election.

Voter feedback was gathered during an exit poll taken after the Nov. 6 City Council election in Hendersonville in which instant runoff voting was used.