Under the Dome: Why do we have runoff elections, anyway?

Good morning! ☀️ Here’s what you need to know in North Carolina politics today, from our team and correspondent Stephanie Loder.

AN INDEPENDENT ON THE BALLOT

Danielle Battaglia reports that unaffiliated candidate Shelane Etchison is making North Carolina history.

Etchison, an Army veteran, became the first congressional candidate in modern state history to make it on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate, according to Chris Cooper, political science professor at Western Carolina University.

She made the decision to run outside the usual party primaries in a district favoring Republicans, and said it’s partly because of how state lawmakers redrew the 14 congressional districts in North Carolina.

Had she run as a Democrat, she stood little chance to win.

How difficult was it to get on the ballot? Gathering the signatures required for an unaffiliated candidate was no easy task, but Etchison got the job done in less than two months.

Shelane Etchison meets with voters around the district gathering signatures to get on the ballot as an independent congressional candidate.
Shelane Etchison meets with voters around the district gathering signatures to get on the ballot as an independent congressional candidate.

The required 7,460 residents from her 9th Congressional District – which includes the Army base Fort Liberty and Alamance, Hoke, Moore, Randolph and parts of Chatham, Cumberland and Guilford counties – signed her petition and their signatures were verified.

Etchison faces Republican Rep. Richard Hudson and Democratic challenger Nigel Bristow in November.

THE COST OF RUNOFFS

It cost North Carolina millions to organize and carry out primary election runoffs, reports Kyle Ingram.

The roots of the state’s runoff elections – which happen when candidates fail to reach a specific percentage of votes — date back to the Jim Crow era, when such moves were made to dilute Black voting, said Cooper.

North Carolina is one of only nine states that have such runoffs, including Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota.

Less than 3% of eligible North Carolina voters participated in a second primary in May.

House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters this month he recognized the primary turnout this month as being “anemic” but he didn’t have a substitute for having a runoff.

Sen. Paul Newton, chair of the Senate Elections Committee, told The News & Observer he is potentially open to the idea of reforming runoffs.

That’s all for today. Check your inbox tomorrow for more #ncpol news.

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