The public is invited to a dry run in instant-runoff voting, 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Durham Public Library. It's sort of an experiment, and sort of a familiarization exercise before the real thing starts two days later.
"It's new, it's a change, there's going to be some confusion," said Elections Director Mike Ashe.
Early voting in this fall's elections opens Oct. 14. Voting in most of the contests is going the conventional way, but in the race for one seat on the state Court of Appeals voters mark three names -- first, second and third choice.
Then election authorities have to figure out who won.
The method has been tried in some local elections, but this is the first time a state has ever used it for a statewide election, Ashe said.
The way it works is, if no candidate gets a majority of first choices, the top two go into an "instant runoff, with their appropriately weighted second- and third-pace votes counted in. Winner takes all, with no need for a second runoff.
"One voting experience costs less than two," Ashe said.
State law requires the instant-runoff method when an office is vacated after the candidate-filing period has closed. The General Assembly passed the law in 2006, after state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr unexpectedly retired too late for a primary. A special filing period ended with six candidates running and the winner got only 23 percent of the vote.
This year, Appeals Court Judge Jim Wynn was appointed to the federal bench after the filing period, leaving a vacancy to be filled this fall. Thirteen candidates signed up, making an instant-runoff mandatory.
Everybody who comes to next week's mock-vote exercise takes part in the voting and counting, Ashe said, but the race is simplified, with only four candidates: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Betsy Ross and George Washington.
The trial run starts at 7 and lasts an hour.