Craven County Commissioner’s will meet at 11 a.m. today (March 15) during a work session in which they will seek state approval to restore partisan elections to the county School Board.
The meeting will be held at New Bern Riverfront Convention Center.
The draft resolution seeks state legislation to enable partisan elections at the school board level.
They say that current non-partisan elections have low voter turnout and withhold party affiliation that may be useful to voters.
Longtime school board member Carr Ipock posted a history of school board elections. It is reposted here with his permission:
“Many, many years ago, the Craven County Board of Education seats were partisan (back when I was elected to the board representing District 3 of the Democratic ticket). Chuck Tyson, County Board Chairman, approached me (as BoEd Chair at that same time) and asked if I could support non-partisan elections for school board members. I said that this did make sense to me, and that I would carry the issue back to our BoEd. Linda Thomas (BoEd Vice-Chair) and I discussed the issue, and brought it forward to the BoEd members. Again, after more discussion, we decided collectively that school boards should not be about political parties and races, but should be whole-heartedly focused on our task at hand. Since to make this change, it needed to be a friendly local bill. Chuck and I drafted the language of the local process for election of school board members in Craven County.
“Some of the objectives included:
“1) 4 year terms, with odd districts (1,3,5,7) following the presidential election cycle, and even districts (2,4,6) coming two years later.
“2) maintaining the integrity of the two minority districts (Districts 4 and 7)
“3) nomination by districts (district-only voting), and the top two vote-getters in each district from a primary process to move forward to the general election in November
“4) Election by county-wide voting for each of the districts in the November general election.
“5) Oath of office on the first Monday of December following the general election (therefore the lame duck period is less than one month).
“The objectives included:
“1) ensuring that each district put forward its choice of candidates for the General Election
“2) by the county-wide vote, ensuring that each candidate not only had an obligation to their district, but likewise ultimately to all voters in the county
“3) all votes are equal, since each voter has a vote for each district on the ballot.
“In my time on the board (28 years) with approximately 24 as non-partisan, I have not witnessed discussions or decisions that were party oriented. At the same time, we have had people at the dias whose party affiliation covered all the choices.
“I have heard the complaint that it is a lot of work (and perhaps expensive) to run countywide, and name-recognition is much easier for incumbents than those newly seeking to run.
“Much of the thinking behind Non-partisans school board races actually originated in the 2001 Community Visioning process that was occurring in 1988. Out of that work came the idea of an open and transparent county-wide school system. In fact, in following the recommendation of the 2001 Vision, the school system later became the Craven County School System (re-named from New Bern-Craven County Schools).
Becoming one, as opposed to parts, has always been a goal that I have endorsed for local public education. Equity continues to be a challenge before us that we must rise too.
“Lastly, I will point out that over time, we were not able to draw population lines that sustained the minority district status of District 7. Therefore, District 4 is our only population-supported minority district (and without gerrymandering). Also, each district has essentially equal populations, and no gerrymandering was used to decide district lines. If you observe our board, you may note that these issues have apparently had no bearing upon the selection of qualified members of our board. For that, I salute the voters in Craven County.”