Elections are how we hold ‘elected’ officials accountable. Without public input, Raleigh City Council decided to postpone the 2021 election. Council requested a 13 month delay from the NC General Assembly, giving them an extra year plus in office.
Census redistricting delays were the initial impetus for the change. The once-in-a-decade redistricting process is behind schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NC General Assembly is already allowing municipalities to hold their elections in March 2022 instead of this fall. Raleigh City Council though asked for an even longer delay, requesting a November 2022 election date.
Even year elections have some merit but this change should not be made unilaterally to keep the current Council in power. If we’re going to make changes to our local elections, let’s make ones that benefit Raleigh residents.
Holding municipal elections in November on even years will increase voter participation, a laudable goal since turnout has never reached above 20%. At the same time, it will make running for office much more expensive, because candidates will now need to reach 3-4 times as many voters.
If the cost goes up to run for office, fewer good people will apply. Council will remain loyal to development corporations that pay for their campaigns. Volunteer-run, people powered campaigns will be at a disadvantage.
The second request Council made was to abolish runoff elections if a candidate receives less than 50% of the vote. A mayor or city council person could receive one-third of the vote and as long as they receive more votes than other candidates, they win.
Instead, let’s move to ranked choice voting to avoid expensive runoffs with low turnout. Raleigh residents could then make it clear who they want to represent them, and who they don’t.
We also need more people on council. Currently a district councilor represents upwards of 100,000 people, more than the average district size for a NC General Assembly representative.
The two-year city council term was a ‘social contract,’ a promise that has been broken.