Politicians like to stay in power. As a result, they’re unlikely to change the method of their own election, if they can help it. Such is the case in Fayetteville at the present moment.
North Carolina law provides a way for citizens to change the way they elect their municipal leaders:
In a Chapter entitled “MODIFICATION OF FORM OF GOVERNMENT” lives this statute:
§ 160A-104. Initiative petitions for charter amendments.
The people may initiate a referendum on proposed charter amendments. An initiative petition shall bear the signatures and resident addresses of a number of qualified voters of the city equal to at least ten percent (10%) of the whole number of voters who are registered to vote in city elections according to the most recent figures certified by the State Board of Elections or 5,000, whichever is less…
Upon receipt of a valid initiative petition, the council shall call a special election on the question of adopting the charter amendments proposed therein, and shall give public notice thereof in accordance with G.S. 163-287. The date of the special election shall be fixed on a date permitted by G.S. 163-287. If a majority of the votes cast in the special election shall be in favor of the proposed changes, the council shall adopt an ordinance amending the charter to put them into effect….
A group of people in Fayetteville wanted to change our city council from nine single-member districts to five single-member districts and four at-large seats.
They started a petition and got 5,007 signatures:
Everything was on track to have the issue submitted to the voters of Fayetteville in the upcoming November election.
Colvin and Company
Mayor Colvin and five members of the City Council recently voted to table the issue. They won’t give voters the choice in November.
The reason they give: a form wasn’t filled out.
I’m not kidding.
Here’s the law they say wasn’t followed. It’s in a different chapter dealing with “Petitions for Elections and Referenda”:
§ 163-218. Registration of notice of circulation of petition.
From and after July 1, 1957, notice of circulation of a petition calling for any election or referendum shall be registered with the county board of elections with which the petition is to be filed, and the date of registration of the notice shall be the date of issuance and commencement of circulation of the petition.
Colvin’s been against at-large seats from the start, arguing that they will dilute minority voting power. This is incorrect, as I pointed out last year if you’re curious:
Regardless, Colvin and his voting block on council will do everything they can to stop this referendum, even denying the will of 5,007 petitioners because of one form.
Who will win? No one knows. That’s the point. If you keep the issue off the ballot, it can’t pass.
But if I’m a Judge, I’m erring on the side of “the people” to modify their own form of government.
Without that right, we’re no longer free.