Forget Politicians. Durham Wants to Talk about the Elections Process. | Triangulator | Indy Week

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Forget Politicians. Durham Wants to Talk about the Elections Process.



Most election years, you focus on politicians. But this year, the Durham City Council is taking a different spin on things. It wants to focus on process.

Right now, Durham uses a nonpartisan primary; parties don't have a formal role. Instead, all candidates battle it out, and the top vote-getters move on to the general. According to council member Don Moffitt, the city spent $400,000 on elections in 2015.

The city has considered tinkering with elections before. In 2009, the Durham County Board of Elections asked the city to switch to what's called a nonpartisan plurality—meaning the top vote-getter in one election would be declared the winner, with no requirement that the winner achieve a majority or even get a certain percentage of the vote. In a memo back then, city attorney Patrick Baker said it was the only "municipal election process that guarantees no more than one election" will be held. This proved a very unpopular idea, and, after a public hearing, the council opted not to change things.

Now, while there's no single proposal being floated, some officials are wondering if there's not a better way to handle elections. At a work session last week, councilman Eddie Davis asked for a future discussion about potential changes to the elections process. Council member Jillian Johnson, meanwhile, brought up the ranked-choice and instant-runoff voting, options favored by many progressive reformers nationwide. (Baker said he'd have to check if that ran afoul of state restrictions.)

Don't worry: if there is a change, it won't impact anything this year. You've got enough election-related headaches to deal with.

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