The Associated Press has two articles about the vacancy created by NC Appeals Court Judge Jim Wynn being sworn in as a new judge on the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. One article highlights the fact that the opening will be filled by voters ranking their choices (Instant Runoff Voting) if more than two candidates file for the office, which is almost certain to happen. The filing period won’t begin until after the State Board of Elections meets on August 24 in Asheville. The other article highlights the drop-off in interest as voters go down the ballot. More than 1 million of the 4.3 million voters in 2008 did not mark a choice in the state Supreme Court race that year. The novelty of using preference voting combined with people’s lack of familiarity with judicial candidates will make implementation of IRV especially challenging. It’s also the first statewide IRV election in the nation in more than 70 years. Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court race between Democrat Bob Hunter and Republican Barbara Jackson, although technically nonpartisan, will determine the partisan make-up of the high court as it heads into 2011, when partisan redistricting plans could be challenged. One other fact that has not yet gotten attention: candidates for the Wynn seat are eligible to participate in the judicial public financing program, per NC General Statute 163-278.64A. If they agree to spending and other limits, and raise at least 225 donations from registered voters of $10 to $500 in the four-week qualifying period, they can be certified to receive about $50,000 or nearly a third of the normal public grant for Court of Appeals contests. So, there’s a lot to keep up with in the judicial elections this year.