Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Make challengers pay for runoffs?

Now here's an interesting finding that will delight those who like a lot of elections and those who want to save taxpayers a few bucks: According to a new poll by Public Policy Polling, N.C. voters want to preserve runoff elections, but they say taxpayers ought not to pay. Candidates should underwrite the cost of runoffs.

Among other things, I expect that would lead to fewer runoffs. And you have to wonder if Democrat Cal Cunningham would have called for a runoff after N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall failed to win a 40 percent plurality in the Democratic primary race for the party's nomination to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. She won the runoff convincingly by a 60-40 margin. Of course, most decisions would probably depend upon whether the challenger has to pay the entire tab, or whether it would be shared with the first primary leader -- who wouldn't be thrilled to have to pay a dime for a runoff.

The numbers show that of those polled, more than twice as many think the challenger who calls for a runoff should foot the bill – 56 to 24 percent, with 20 percent undecided.

Tom Jensen, PPP's analyst, describes the findings this way:

41% of voters in the state support continuing to pick party nominees in a runoff when no candidate gets at least 40% of the vote in the primary. 32% think North Carolina should no longer have runoffs and 27% of voters don't have an opinion either way. There is no division along party lines when it comes to the issue- Democrats support keeping runoffs 42/28, Republicans do so 40/36, and independents do by a 39/34 spread.

Voters support maintaining runoffs but in the wake of a statewide one last month that drew little interest they think the candidates requesting them should fit the bill. 56% of North Carolinians would like to see that move made to 24% opposed. Majorities of Republicans, (60%) independents, (56%), and Democrats (52%) all support a move toward campaigns paying for runoff elections.

The Legislature's gone home and this is not a top priority for voters in the state but making campaigns fund runoffs would be a rare initiative with bipartisan support from the public.


Marge Innovera said...

Or just come up with a different system to declare a primary winner with the first election. I dunno, maybe something like if there are 3 or more canditates, each voter picks a first and second choice. If no clear winner emerges with >50% of the vote, add in the second choice votes for the two highest vote-getters and declare the winner outright. That saves time and money for everyone, taxpayers and candidates.

Chris Telesca said...

When we should be doing more to have publicly funded campaigns to make elections voter-owned, why would we even think about doing this?

The funny thing is, we lowered the threshold for winning a primary from 50% plus one vote to 40% plus one vote. That reduced the number of primary runoffs AND reduced voter turnout.

In the 2008 Labor Commissioner primary runoffs where there were more than one race on the ballot, voter turnout was higher than in places where there was more than one Democratic runoff on the ballot - and a different candidate won in those districts. Perhaps we should be looking to raise the threshold to increase the turnout?

Either that or have the political parties hold county caucuses and cast the votes there. Of course, that would cut out the UNA voters from voting in either the GOP or DEM party runoffs.

But anything would be better and cheaper than IRV! It would cost close to $20 million (not including the cost of certified machines - which we do not yet have - that can tabulate the IRV ballots) for start-up costs, then $3 million a year for voter education. And you'd have to pay for that even if you didn't end up needing IRV to determine a winner.

At those prices, traditional runoff elections are looking like a better deal all the time!

george said...

You don't get something for nothing.
You get what you pay for. Absolutely all democrats of ALL stripes (LITTLE d) think that *democracy* (LITTLE d) is WORTH paying for.

This idea is idiotic, period.
Times may be tight but the amount of money we spend on elections IS NOT some huge drain, not compared to corporate welfare or transportation boondoggles or any other form of government spending to which you might LEGITIMATELY object.

The fact that an internal party officer has expressed support for this is shameful. Ability to pay for this should NOT be a factor in ANYbody's entitlement to come before the voters. A campaign that would be viable if it could afford to spend this money on ads and outreach could be reduced to non-viability by having to pay this. The runoff is NOT just for the benefit of the candidates! It is to ensure a PROCESS whereby we can be confident that the nominee is someone that a majority of us actually support! And people who do not have a lot of big donors are still entitled to vie for that support -- that's the only way working-class people are ever going to get represented!