Voices & Choices

In North Carolina, self-sabotage and a case for ranked choice voting

In North Carolina, self-sabotage and a case for ranked choice voting

On what was otherwise a uneventful first big primary day of the 2018 election, with predicted winners and establishment favorites sweeping most races, the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District got interesting. On one side, Dan McCready, a candidate who had all but locked up the race via key endorsements, cruised into the general with 83 percent of the vote. In the other, a bitter 3-way primary elevated firebrand Marc Harris to the general over the more mainstream Robert Pittenger and exposed deep rifts within the party coalition.

One might assume from these descriptions that McCready was the Republican incumbent, while Harris and Pittenger were fighting for the right to be his Democratic challenger. In fact, Pittenger was the incumbent, and his loss against Harris means Republicans will go into the general against Democrat McCready without an incumbency advantage.

It’s notable that Harris won with less than a majority vote. We can’t know for sure, but it’s possible things would have been different under ranked choice voting, saving Republicans from further eroding their national incumbency advantage in this race. Even if the result had been the same, ranked choice voting would have better clarified Harris’s support among Republicans in the district.

Equally interesting, given that the Republican race was much more competitive and the district has a partisanship of 56.9 percent for Republicans, is that Democrats overall received an excess of 10,000 more votes. A divided and dispirited Republican caucus, along with high enthusiasm among Democrats is precisely the sort of trend that could lead to an upset in this relatively safe Republican district.

However, even a win here would leave Democrats with 4 out of 13 congressional seats (31 percent), a far cry from the 46 percent Democratic partisanship of the state. Progress could be achieved via independent redistricting, but for a truly proportional delegation the Fair Representation Act offers the most promising opportunity.


https://e.infogram.com/6160bfeb-0b6c-4971-bbdd-8cfbc5aab7d8?src=embedNorth Carolina 9th Congressional District Election Results550348no0border:none;allowfullscreen

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