Legislature may move municipal election years

Published 11:55 pm Sunday, November 20, 2016

The North Carolina League of Municipalities, of which Washington is a member, opposes moving municipal elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, according to one member of its Board of Directors.

“We want to support legislation that would allow municipal elections to be determined by the local municipal authority. The reason that is important to us in the City of Washington … is that if we convert to a standard that would set all elections in the state of North Carolina in even-numbered years. We don’t want to get caught up in the large wave of elected officials,” said Councilman William Pitt, who is on the NCLM Board of Directors, to the City Council on Nov. 14. “So, it’s important that we try to maintain that our electability would happen in odd-numbered years. I don’t think we would like to be in the same group as the judges, the president, the county commissioners, et cetera, et cetera. We need to maintain that uniqueness of a municipal election official.”

If Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have their way, municipal elections would be held in even-numbered years, beginning in 2020.

In a vote mostly along party lines in late June, the North Carolina General Assembly approved a bill that calls for a legislative oversight committee to study such a move. The bill is Senate Bill 667. “It is the intent of the General Assembly to provide for even-numbered year municipal elections, effective with the 2020 election cycle. The Joint Legislative Elections 41 Oversight Committee shall study the options to implement this change and recommend to the 42 General Assembly any legislation it deems advisable. It shall make a final report before the 43 convening of the 2017 Regular Session of the General Assembly,” reads a section of the bill.

After studying the matter, the committee would make suggestions for implementing such a change. Additional legislation would have to be passed later to make the change. The committee’s report would be due before the 2017 session of the General Assembly convenes.

Bill supporters said it would save local boards of elections and municipalities money and likely lead to higher voter turnout for municipal elections. Voter turnout in municipal elections runs lower than other elections, supporters said, adding that conducting all elections in the same cycle likely would increase voter turnout in the city, town and village elections.

NCLM officials believe the bill is unnecessary. “It is a recipe for unintended consequences. The provision amounts to a dictated from Raleigh telling local people how to run local elections,” said Michael Lazzarra, the league’s second vice president, in a news release issued this past summer.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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