Turnout and Progress

A random sampling of the turnout from Tuesday’s Municipal Elections in North Carolina:

Durham County: 18.32% Turnout

  • Durham has “at-large” seats on its City Council

Wake County: 13.25% Turnout

  • Raleigh has “at-large” seats on its City Council (not on ballot Tuesday)

Mecklenburg County: 17.05% Turnout

  • Charlotte has “at-large” seats on its City Council

Guilford County: 17.93% Turnout

  • Greensboro and High Point have “at-large” seats on their City Councils.

New Hanover: 17.93% Turnout

  • Wilmington has “at-large” seats on its City Council.

Cumberland County: 9.5% Turnout

  • No “at-large” seats on Fayetteville City Council.
  • Two incumbents lose with vote counts in the hundreds:
  • Myron Pitts calls election results “historic” because minorities and women win. Pitts makes the case against “at-large” seats in the Fayetteville Observer:
  • Pitts credits his brother for leading the charge to eliminate three “at-large” seats in 2001. Pitts said “at large seats concentrated power in the hands of just a few” and the council would “be more representative of our diverse city” if the three at-large seats were eliminated.

A quick summary of the arguments for at-large seats:

  1. The ability of each citizen to vote for more than one member creates more voter “say” in the composition of the council.
  2. More “say” leads to increased election participation, interest, and voter turnout (see all the cities above for proof).
  3. At-large representatives are more responsive to the needs of the entire city and must gain city-wide consensus to lead.

A quick summary of the arguments against at-large seats:

  1. Only rich people can afford to run city-wide. Minorities and women (presumably less affluent) will not win and the Council won’t look like Fayetteville as a whole.

We can keep having the lowest turnout in the state, or we can follow the lead of Durham, Wilmington, Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, and High Point and put some at-large seats back on the council.

Fayetteville has evolved, and African American and women candidates are winning city-wide and county-wide races in record numbers. Pitts should welcome this news. These were historic elections and they demonstrate that fears of rich, white people controlling everything are out-dated.

Progress with the times, Fayetteville. You’re better than 9.5%.

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