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Jackson to move school board race to November

Jackson to move school board race to November

The race for Board of Education in Jackson County is one step closer to being moved to November elections after county commissioners signed a resolution in support of the change. 

At its Dec. 19 meeting, the county commission unanimously passed a resolution in support of changing the election schedule. The race for Jackson County Board of Education is unique in that, until now, it has been decided during the Primary Election, despite being non-partisan. The resolution will be forwarded to Jackson County’s representatives in the General Assembly who will have to pass a local bill in order to make the change.

The resolution states that moving the election to November will provide voters with more opportunity to research and gain knowledge of the candidates to be better informed before voting. It also points out that historically in Jackson County, voter turnout is significantly higher in the General Election than the Primary Election, so holding the election in November would allow for more representation from the public at large.

In the 2022 election cycle, the last with a school board race in Jackson, there were 7,246 ballots cast in the Primary Election versus 15,094 in the November General Election.

“Election clarity and transparency are of the utmost importance to ensure voters the most opportunity and information for their decision,” the resolution reads.

The resolution requests that the North Carolina General Assembly establish the date of the Board of Education elections be at the General Election in November. It also requests that the Board of Education elections remain nonpartisan, which is significant in the face of the recent push to have more school boards elected on a partisan basis.

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In 2015, out of 115 school districts in North Carolina, 17 of them had boards elected on a partisan basis. Now, that number has grown to more than 50. County commissioners in Macon County recently put forth a resolution in support of changing its school board to a partisan-elected body, but after push back from school board members and the public, the resolution did not pass.

There was some discussion during the commissioners’ December work session about whether moving the school board election to November would warrant making the race a partisan one.

“I think keeping it non-partisan is probably the best thing because then you could get a better group [of candidates],” Letson said at the time.

The resolution passed unanimously. If the local bill passes without issue, the change is requested to take effect in the next election cycle for school board members in 2024.

There are two seats up for election on the Jackson County Board of Education in the coming year, currently held by Wes Jamison and Elizabeth Cooper, board chair. Only Jamison has filed for reelection. Because the Board of Education is non-partisan, there will be no primary contest.

Jamison will face Clint Irons in the general election to represent district three on the school board. In district one, former County Commissioner Gayle Woody will face off against Rainy Brake.

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