GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – What would you think about using ranked-choice voting to select candidates in North Carolina? Do you even know what that is?

The concept of ranked-choice voting (RCV to insiders) – which is when you choose more than one candidate on the ballot and rank them by preference – has been expanding across the country, and maybe you are surprised to hear that a good number of your neighbors is open to the concept and that it has precedence in North Carolina.

In a recently released poll by Carolina Forward, voters indicated they were open to the idea but a lot of them still didn’t know what the heck they were being asked.

About 40% of those 606 registered voters surveyed supported the use of ranked-choice in North Carolina, and about 1 in 4 (26%) were opposed. Then there was the 1-in-3 who were unsure (34%). That’s unsurprising.

The poll data ranked-choice voting by Carolina Forward. (CAROLINA FORWARD)

The concept is unusual, can be difficult to explain and, although discussed more broadly, it is used sparingly but perhaps in more places than you knew.

Although there are various methods for using ranked-choice, Ballotpedia describes RCV as “an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the next-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.”

Has been used in NC

NC Board of Elections spokesperson Patrick Gannon noted that any adoption of ranked-choice would be the purview of the General Assembly and that state and county election boards only implement laws passed by legislators. But he also noted that the concept was not foreign in North Carolina.

“For your information, instant runoff voting, a ranked choice voting method, was used in some NC municipal elections between 2007 and 2013,” he said. “In the 2010 general election, the voting method was used statewide to fill a vacancy on the NC Court of Appeals.”

Fair Vote, an advocacy group, recounts that election: “After 1st choices were counted, no candidate came close to a majority of ballots cast. The top candidates were Doug McCullough with 15.21% of 1st choice rankings and Cressie Thigpen with 20.33%.

Since no candidate received a majority in the first round, the race proceeded to an instant runoff, with McCullough and Thigpen advancing and all others eliminated. Ballots ranking eliminated candidates 1st were then counted instead for whichever remaining candidate (McCullough or Thigpen) was ranked higher on each ballot.

“Once these ballots had been added to the candidates’ totals, McCullough was the winner with 50.31% of the final-round vote. This means that among voters who expressed a preference between the top two candidates, 50.31% preferred McCullough. The vote-count was close enough to trigger a statewide recount; the margin between the candidates changed by fewer than 100 votes, underscoring the quality of the original count.”

Idea is expanding

Got that? Yes, confusing. But although advocates argue that such a system could be more accurate in determining the broadest feelings of an electorate, only two states, Maine and Alaska, use ranked-choice voting for both state and federal elections. In other places, local election boards adopt the process for various federal, state and local races in both primary and general elections. reports that As of December, 63 American jurisdictions have RCV in place, including two states, two counties, and 59 cities. Military and overseas voters cast RCV ballots in federal runoff elections in six states. (COURTESY FAIR VOTE)

For instance, in Virginia, Republicans have used ranked-choice voting for primary elections. The GOP used ranked-choice at a state convention – rather than a primary – to nominate candidates in May 2021. That process was used again to choose Leon Benjamin to replace the late Rep. Donald McEachin in a recent special election. But in Virginia primaries are the purview of the parties, and Democrats have not embraced ranked-choice and did not use it to choose Jennifer McClellan for that race in the state’s 4th Congressional District(Feb. 23).

 Alaska’s system is somewhat complicated but perhaps is an example of a process that you probably don’t understand if you haven’t participated. And that might be further confusing because Alaska’s approach is nonpartisan.

A ballot for a mock election where people ranked the performances at a cafe in Anchorage, Alaska, to teach Alaskans about ranked-choice voting. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

In the primary election, voters rank candidates in each race (no matter the party), and the top four move on to the general election. Under that concept, North Carolina’s U.S. Senate ballot last spring could’ve been nominees Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley joined by, perhaps, Republicans Pat McCrory and Mark Walker, who lost in the primary.

Voters’ ranked choices are counted in rounds. If one candidate wins more than 50% of the first-round vote, the election is over. But if not, the lowest vote-getter in the first round is eliminated, and a voter’s second choice gets a vote in the second round.

This continues until two candidates remain, and then the larger total wins. And like has been happening with mail-in/absentee ballots in some states, the counting can go on beyond election day.

The idea is gaining traction. New York City elections are ranked-choice, and in November Nevada voters gave a first level of approval to ranked-choice voting for the general election.

Future prospects in NC

Will that happen in North Carolina? Carolina Forward’s poll suggests there could be a path. About 1 in 4 of those who support ranked choice selected “strongly support,” and even more interesting is that Democrats and independents, who represent more than 69% of all registered voters in North Carolina, were much more in favor of the idea than were Republicans.

About 29% of Democrats chose “strongly support,” as did 27% of independents. About 14% chose of Republicans were in favor.

But, as Carolina Forward noted, when you add those who somewhat support the concept, more than half of Democrats (53%) and more than 4 in 10 independents support the idea.

That mirrors the urban-rural split on the issue as well: 52% of urban voters and 39% of suburban voters at least somewhat support the idea, but only 32% of rural voters, with more than 4 in 10 saying they were unsure.

The strongest opposition was from men (22%), Republicans (21%) and independents (19%), although some of those would overlap.

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) (Courtesy of US House of Representatives)
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) (Courtesy of US House of Representatives)

Remembering the Greensboro 4

6th District Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), Greensboro native and 12th District Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte) introduced a resolution to honor the Greensboro Four Sit-In, commemorating the Civil Rights effort by NC A&T students on Feb. 2, 1960.

“Their actions sparked a revolution that moved our nation forward in the fight for civil rights, Manning said on the House floor.

Manning’s district includes NC A&T, Bennett College and Winston-Salem State University, all historically black colleges and universities. Adams earned a master’s degree from NC A&T.

Rep. Alma Adams (D-Charlotte_

They were joined in sponsoring the resolution by fellow Democrats in the House, 1st District Rep. Don Davis, 2nd District Rep. Deborah Ross, 4th District Rep. Valerie Foushee, 13th District Rep. Wiley Nickel and 14th District Rep. Jeff Jackson).

Tillis joins interstate conceal/carry push

Republican Senator Thom Tillis has joined the lead in the House by 9th District Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Southern Pines) to suggest there needs to be national conceal/carry reciprocity across state lines.

In this Monday, Sept. 30, 2019, photo, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis responds to questions during an interview in Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina voters were deciding on Super Tuesday which Democrat they believe can unseat Sen. Thom Tillis and whether the current GOP lieutenant governor is the one best suited to oust Gov. Roy Cooper in the fall.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Tillis’s “Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act”  suggests the licenses – which vary significantly by state – should be treated like driver’s licenses like when speed limits vary by state.

“This commonsense legislation protects and promotes the rights of lawful gun owners while respecting state sovereignty, and I am proud to work with my Republican colleagues on this important legislation,” Tillis said in a release.

Hudson introduced HR 38, the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act”, which is fairly similar.

Tillis, who last year negotiated the bipartisan gun control law that was signed by President Joe Biden, says his bill has 44 cosponsors. Hudson claimed 118 that were bipartisan.


Senator Ted Budd
  • As leaders in the White House and Congress discuss raising the debt ceiling, Senator Ted Budd (R-NC) has co-sponsored the “No Budget, No Pay Act,” which would prohibit lawmakers from being paid if Congress fails to pass the annual budget resolutions and appropriations bills by Oct. 1 each year.
  • Committee assignments came in the Senate, and Tillis was named to the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Finance, Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. Budd, a freshman, will serve on Armed Services, Commerce Science and Transportation, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Each also has subcommittee assignments.
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan
  • Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan joined many of her colleagues nationally to respond to the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis after a beating by a group of Memphis Police officers, issuing a statement about lessons learned from that tragedy that said in part: “We are not perfect. We strive to do our best. There is always room to learn, grow, and improve. It is always the right time to stand against injustice. The City of Greensboro and the Greensboro Police Department continue our commitment to working with our community to ensure policies and practices are in place that reject this type of injustice and brutality.”
Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitset)
  • State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitsett) says his new campaign to be Labor commissioner won’t deter his work in the House, where he is the majority whip: “Over the next two years I will remain dedicated to serving in the NC House, and I will faithfully discharge my duties as a legislator. At the same time, I will be traveling the State and meeting with citizens to discuss our campaign for NC Labor Commissioner.”
  • NC House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) updated his committee assignments list for the next two years. There were a couple of changes in leadership roles.
  • A poll by the conservative John Locke Foundation suggested that 58% of respondents support public charter schools. Fewer than 1 in 4 (23%) said they are opposed.