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:
- The ability of each citizen to vote for more than one member creates more voter “say” in the composition of the council.
- More “say” leads to increased election participation, interest, and voter turnout (see all the cities above for proof).
- 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:
- 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%.