Archived Story

Option to limited voting on board’s agenda

Published 5:28pm Saturday, June 29, 2013

An alternative to the limited-voting method used to elect commissioners in Beaufort County is scheduled to be presented during the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday,

The recommended option comes from the Beaufort County Limited Voting Committee, of which Commissioner Gary Brinn is chairman. Brinn will present the committee’s recommendation.

Since 1991, Beaufort County voters have used limited voting to elect commissioners. The method was imposed on the county by an order from a federal judge. The judge issued the order to enforce an agreement between county leaders and a group of black residents concerning the system of electing commissioners.

Under limited voting, a voter may vote for only one candidate no matter how many seats on the seven-member board are up for grabs in any election to choose board members. Currently, four board members are elected every four years, with three board members elected every four years. The two elections are held two years apart, providing staggered four-year terms for the commissioners.

The panel recommends that in elections when four seats on the seven-member board are open for election, that voters are allowed to vote for two candidates, and in elections when three seats on the board are up for grabs, voters may vote for only one candidate, Brinn said. That plan is derived from a study in 2007.

The panel considered two other options. One option retained the current seven-member configuration but with commissioners elected from districts (one commissioner per district) across the county. The other option called for four commissioners to be elected from districts, with one commissioner elected from each district. That option provided for three commissioners to be elected at-large across the county.

“I believe the way we are going to progress on this is we’re going to try to stay with what the committee came up with and leave limited voting in place for right now. I think it’s a good first step. So, that’s what I’m going to propose on Monday night,” Brinn said last week.

Brinn said he believes that changing the voting method in Beaufort County likely will require going before a federal judge to get permission to make a change.

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