One-point-nine percent. That was the turnout for yesterday's state wide runoff election to choose a Democratic candidate for labor commissioner of North Carolina. It is the worst voter turnout ever recorded here. Despite the lack of interest, taxpayers paid about $4 million to conduct this election. If you break it down, that is about $63 vote. Is this a wise use of taxpayer's money? We take a look in tonight's troubleshooters report. Most people we talked to in downtown Wilmington didn't even know there was an election on Tuesday. Mary Fant Donnan and John Brooks were the Democratic candidates for labor commissioner, vying for the chance to challenge incumbent Cherie Berry in the general election. Ms. Donnan got the most votes in the may primary, but not enough to win outright. Thus, we have the $4 million runoff for this single race. If it sounds like a lot of money for a race you didn't know - or care - much about, you're not alone. Resident Freddie Lewis said, "I just don't think it's worth our time and money to have a race with 2 candidates, on a statewide level, and those be the only candidates." There is some effort out there to change the election system. Dr. Earl Sheridan is a Wilmington city councilman and a Political Science professor at UNCW. Sheridan said, "Well I think runoffs -- they're kind of a pain. They're costly, you don't get very good voter turnout in runoffs, and I think it would be good if you could find something that might replace them." We could do what a lot of states do already. Whoever gets the most votes in the primary -- wins. The flaw there is that you could have a candidate who wins the race, without winning a majority of the vote. In this equation, Donnan would have won the May primary with just 27 percent of the vote. The system's not perfect, but some people think it beats the alternative -- a lot of effort and a lot of money, for an election with little voter interest. Two municipalities in North Carolina, Cary and Hendersonville, did away with runoff elections last year, resulting in a substantial savings for tax payers. Wilmington City Council has talked about doing the same thing, but so far have not reached a consensus about the best way to conduct future elections. As for changes on the statewide level, elected officials we spoke to don't know of any efforts to eliminate runoff elections.
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