RALEIGH – The North Carolina Board of Elections has decided how to handle counting the returns for an instant runoff election.
Thirteen people are running for the Court of Appeals. Voters must choose three candidates and rank them in order of preference.
If no one gets over 50 percent of the "first choice" candidates, the top two "first choice" vote-getters advance.
Ballots picking those two candidates as their first choice are set aside. Then, elections workers look at the second and third choices of the rest of the voters and apply those votes to the runoff candidates.
But, when voters hit the polls, only the first choice registers as a vote.
So, the question for the Board of Elections became how to count the second and third votes. Initially the board decided it would do that by a hand-eye count. Thursday, the Board reversed that decision and decided to use a software program, something Chairman Larry Leake is against.
"I'm a lot leary about it," Leake said. "The computer experts acknowledge there are potential problems with the system."
Part of the problem is the software program is not federally certified, and some voting groups think that could lead to a lawsuit.
Joyce McCloy with the group Verified Voting said, "The certification process tests and checks for security and accuracy. That's why we require it."
Leake said if there are problems, elections workers could resort back to the hand-eye count. But McCloy says that might not be so easy.
"We'll also have no way to know if it miscounts because it's so complex. It's not something that we the public can observe," she said.
But those for the software say they're confident the equipment will work. Leake was the only board member to vote against using the software.
Officials are using the instant runoff format because there was not enough time for a primary between the resignation of a Court of Appeals judge in August and Election Day in November.