Lawmakers want to make town elections partisan
Republican lawmakers in Raleigh have introduced several bills to make more local elections a partisan affair, and local leaders aren’t happy about it.
The Franklin Board of Aldermen joined local governing boards across the state by adopting a resolution last week opposing Senate Bill 94 — a piece of legislation introduced by Republican Sens. Ronald Rabin and Norman Sanderson to require that candidates for school boards and municipalities run as a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian.
“The board felt very strongly that things are fine the way they are and from what I hear it’s a pretty universal feeling among local boards,” said Franklin Mayor Bob Scott.”
For Scott, this is just one more move by the General Assembly to take away power from local governments.
“Cities and towns are facing an erosion of their authority,” he said at a recent board retreat.
Other aldermen agreed that they like having a nonpartisan election for town elections.
“Would Republicans benefit from it going partisan?” asked Alderman Joe Collins.
“Absolutely,” Scott replied.
“Well then it will go partisan,” Collins said, insinuating the Republican majority in Raleigh would pass the bill whether local boards wanted it or not.
“If enough municipalities go to bat over it and call their legislators, it could die in committee,” Scott reassured.
SB 94 — dubbed “Elections Transparency” — is one of several bills being introduced to make more local elections partisan this year.
“I have read the bill and I find it ironic and humorous that part the legislation claims its intent to be for transparency,” said John Henning Jr., Franklin’s town attorney. “Because nothing says transparency more than partisan politics.”
Similar bills got shot down last year and the town board in Franklin hopes the North Carolina League of Municipalities’ stance against it will keep it from moving forward this year as well.
Scott hasn’t spoken directly with Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, about the bill, but said Rep. Kevin Corbin, R-Franklin, said he was against the measure.
“Kevin Corbin has assured me he’s not going to support such legislation,” he said.
Scott said he also opposes House Bill 64 that proposes to change municipal elections from being held on odd years to even years, which would mean municipal candidates would be on the same ballot with federal and state candidates.
“I’m totally against that — it’s going to dilute the effectiveness of municipal elections because we’ll be overshadowed by state and federal elections,” Scott said. “I don’t know why (Republicans) are pushing it, but if you look at the demographics, it would work to their favor.”
If legislators are able to make municipal elections partisan and get the elections moved to even years, a majority of voters will just go down the ballot and select all Democrat or all Republican candidates instead of taking the time to get to know the candidates and the issues.
“If we compete with state and federal elections, we’ll just get lost,” Scott said.