New Bern aldermen will start discussion on Tuesday over whether to change the method used to elect aldermen and the mayor from the nonpartisan election and runoff method it has been using, to the nonpartisan plurality method.
Under the present system, a candidate avoids a runoff if he/she wins 50 percent of the vote plus one extra vote.
The proposed system proclaims whomever wins the most votes as the winner.
If the city used this proposed method in the 2009 municipal election, then-Mayor Tom Bayliss would have won reelection, since he was the top vote getter in a three-way election.
Lee Bettis came in second, and the two faced each other in a run-off that Bettis won.
Under the proposed method, the chances of a fringe candidate winning an election go from unlikely, to much more likely, particularly if there are several candidates running.
On the other hand, a nonpartisan plurality method could increase the chances of African American candidate being elected mayor of New Bern, in cases where there is one African American candidate running against two or more white candidates.
The stated reason for the change is to save money. New Bern municipal elections are expensive enough already, being held in election years between any other elections.
Compounding that expense are runoff elections, which happen in New Bern more often than not.
Together, they cost New Bern taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Still, a run-off gives voters the chance to have a say in who represents them on the Board of Aldermen from among the top two candidates should there be a run-off.
Is that worth the added expense? Some may say yes. But judging from actual voter turnouts for municipal run-off elections, practically speaking, the answer may be no.
Here’s the city attorney’s memo to the board with details:
TO: Mayor and Members of the Board City Manager
FROM: Michael Scott Davis, City Attorney
RE: Amendments to City Charter to Change Election Method
DATE: April 17, 2019
The Board recently directed me to draft a resolution to change the municipal election method from the nonpartisan election and runoff method to the nonpartisan plurality method. Since North Carolina has a state statute that authorizes municipalities to amend their charters to change the election method from one of the four basic options (all on odd years), the Board has the ability to proceed with the charter amendment by following the statute, or by seeking a local bill from the General Assembly. The Board also has the option to call for a special election for the purpose of submitting the ordinance to a vote. Presuming that the Board wants to proceed to amend the charter consistent with the statutory authority, here are the required steps:
- Adopt a resolution of intent to consider an ordinance amending the charter which also includes a call for a public hearing on the proposed charter
- A notice of the public hearing shall be published at least once not less than 10 days prior to the date fixed for the public hearing, and shall contain a summary of the proposed amendments.
- Following the public hearing, but not earlier than the next regular meeting and not more than 60 days from the public hearing, the Board may adopt an ordinance amending the charter to implement the amendments proposed in the resolution of
- Within 10 days after an ordinance is adopted, the Board shall publish a notice stating that an ordinance amending the charter has been adopted and the notice must summarize the contents and effect of the
- City clerk shall file a certified true copy of the charter amendment with the Secretary of State and the Legislative
In order for the ordinance to be effective at the next election, the amendment must be finally adopted and approved at least 90 days prior to election day.
RESOLUTION OF INTENT TO CONSIDER AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE CHARTER OF THE CITY OF NEW BERN TO CHANGE THE METHOD OF ELECTION FROM THE NONPARTISAN ELECTION AND RUNOFF METHOD TO THE NONPARTISAN PLURALITY METHOD AND SETTING THE DATE FOR A PUBLIC HEARING THEREON
THAT WHEREAS, pursuant to G.S. §160A-101 and §160A-102, the Board of Aldermen of the City of New Bern may adopt an ordinance to amend the Charter of the City of New Bern to implement any of the optional forms set out in G.S. §160A-101; and
WHEREAS, G.S. §160A-102 requires that proposed Charter amendments first be submitted to a public hearing and that due notice thereof be published not less than ten (10) days prior to the date fixed for the public hearing.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF ALDERMEN OF THE CITY OF NEW BERN THAT:
Section 1. The Board of Aldermen of the City of New Bern hereby intends to consider an ordinance amending the Charter of the City of New Bern, as set forth in Session Law 2016-41 of the General Assembly of North Carolina, to change the method of election from the nonpartisan election and runoff method to the nonpartisan plurality method as authorized by G.S.
- 160A-101(7)b. It is proposed that at the regular municipal election to be held in 2021, the mayor and members of the Board of Aldermen shall be elected according to the nonpartisan plurality method.
Section 2. A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is hereby called in the City Hall courtroom at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
Section 3. Following the public hearing called hereby, the Board of Aldermen shall consider passage of the ordinance at its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. in the City Hall courtroom.
Section 4. The City Clerk is hereby directed to cause to be published in the Sun Journal a proper notice of the public hearing called, which notice shall contain a summary of the proposed Charter amendments.
ADOPTED THIS 23rd DAY OF APRIL, 2019.
DANA E. OUTLAW, MAYOR
BRENDA E. BLANCO, CITY CLERK