4/15/2019 5:50:00 AM Lincolnton City Elections Won't Be Changing
Rep. Jason Saine
Councilman Martin Eaddy (left) proposed the resolution asking for City elections to be changed back to odd-numbered years; Councilman Roby Jetton (right) cast the only 'no' vote on the resolution. Eaddy was joined by the other Democrats on the Council in voting 'yes'--Jetton is the lone Republican on the Council.
(Lincoln Herald File Photos)
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
The Lincolnton City Council passed a resolution at its March meeting asking that City elections be moved back to odd-numbered years. The elections had been moved in 2017 after the City Council passed a resolution endorsing the change. It was assumed at the time that the North Carolina General Assembly would pass a bill moving all city elections in the state to even-numbered years. That bill was not passed, but Lincolnton's election change was approved in June 2017. The change also made the term for the mayor four years instead of two and staggered elections so that only two of the four City Council seats would normally be up for election in a given year.
The resolution passed by the Council in March of this year was sent to Representative Jason Saine. He responded in a letter to the City on April 4th:
Donna C. Flowers, MMC, NCCMC Assistant to City Manager/City Clerk City of Lincolnton P.O. Box 617 Lincolnton, NC 28093-0617
"Thank you for sending me the resolution recently passed by the Lincolnton City Council regarding House Bill 64 that was filed during the 2017-2018 legislative session. I would like to make clear that I did not receive any communication regarding the resolution until March 28th, 2019 though the resolution was apparently adopted on March 7th, 2019.
"There are several issues that need to be understood by Council regarding this resolution. I will begin with all local bill drafting requests needed to be in to our staff here at the NC General Assembly by Wednesday, March 6th by 4 pm to even be considered per our House rules. Second, the bill would have needed to be filed by our deadline of March 28th, 2019, the day I received the official communication via city staff regarding the resolution. I bring this to your attention since even though I had read accounts of the actions of the resolution in an opinion piece on the Lincoln Herald’s website, I could not find the resolution prior to or after the meeting when it was passed.
"I found amusing this quote from the article: So it's all about politics--and that's the reason the resolution won't accomplish anything, the General Assembly won't approve the repeal of the change in Lincolnton's elections. One prominent Democrat told us, "Jason Saine might or might not introduce the repeal proposal, but even if he does, he'll work to make sure it doesn't pass. The Republican Party doesn't want it!"
"The statement and the observation are at least partly true. The resolution would have never accomplished much given the fundamental problem that the resolution asks for the impossible. As it stands, House Bill 64 that was referenced in the resolution, was simply a bill that was filed and it never even received a hearing in the North Carolina House. Sending to me a resolution asking for a repeal of a bill that never became law is an impossible task and frankly, demonstrates a misunderstanding of the basic legislative process. The bill status can be traced by following this link: https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2017/H%2064. The bill was entitled “Moving Municipal Elections to Even Numbered Years” and a companion bill, Senate Bill 206, was also filed. While the bill did concern moving municipal elections to even numbered years, it was a far broader bill that was not specifically crafted for the City of Lincolnton. The actual legislation that I sponsored, House Bill 504, was unanimously passed by a bipartisan vote in the House 114-0, in the Senate 47-0, and has been law for almost two years. Session Law 2017-62, AN ACT TO PROVIDE THAT REGULAR MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN THE CITY OF LINCOLNTON SHALL BE HELD IN EVEN-NUMBERED YEARS AND TO EXTEND THE MAYOR'S TERM FROM TWO TO FOUR YEARS, became law on June 28th, 2017. Not only was the legislation well received, it went through the committee process of both houses with only minor technical changes. (See the bill history here: https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2017/H504/True)
"I also want to provide you with additional research that I conducted regarding voter participation in the City of Lincolnton elections. [Rep. Saine attached a graph comparing participation in City elections in Ward I in three years. In 2009, 1410 people voted in that race; in 2013, 1932; and in 2018, 3152. We checked the NC State Board of Elections figures, and the total numbers voting in City general elections in 2009 was 1910; in 2011, 1776; in 2013, 1929; in 2015, 1531; and in 2018, 3152.]
"When you look at an increase of 1,220 voters participating in the process, I would think council would be pleased with those results. Furthermore, it is a bit counterintuitive given that those who won the past election under the new even year elections would not want to see that as a positive result and as an endorsement of their getting elected to council with more votes.
"At any rate, filing a bill to reverse the initial bipartisan decision of the previous council to support even year elections would not be possible this legislative session given that deadlines have already expired.
"Additionally, I would need to see stronger research by the council to even consider such a course of action.
"I hope that my comments and the additional background are helpful to you."
As we pointed out in our article following the City Council's March meeting, Lincolnton remains a bit of an oddball. It's one of only eight North Carolina municipalities that have partisan city elections. All of the others are much larger cities. It's also one of less than a dozen that have city elections in even-numbered years. All of the others are smaller.
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