Feb. 21. Cornelius has gone on record against changing election years from odd years to even. The Cornelius Town Board voted 4-1 against House Bill 64, a proposal which would move local elections to even years, the same years voters choose presidents and governors.
“I do have a problem with being told when we can hold our elections,” said Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam. (His full quote is below.)
The proposed law is sponsored by a number of Republicans. Rep. John Bradford, who serves on the House Committee on State and Local Government, had asked his former town board members for their opinion. To gauge the town board’s feelings, Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis presented a resolution opposing the issue which mirrored one recently adopted by the Kannapolis City Council.
The wording concerned some of the commissioners.
“I have a problem with this resolution,” said Commissioner Dave Gilroy. “The point of this proposed state law is to increase voter participation and that’s something we should aim to do.” Commissioner Jim Duke agreed with Gilroy but the remaining three Town board members took exception to the state dictating when local elections can be held. “I don’t have a problem with what Dave said, but I do have a problem with being told when we can hold our elections,” said Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam.
Proponents of the law claim it will reduce costs by eliminating off-year elections where turnout is often dismal. But opponents fear that the local elections, such as town board seats, will get lost in the more highly publicized races.
Studies have also shown that ballot position is an important factor in elections, and that the local races would be further down on the ballot, reducing voter interest and familiarity.
After about 20 minutes of spirited discussion, the board rejected a proposal by Commissioner Gilroy supporting the new law, opting instead to oppose it with a simple one sentence statement of opposition to House Bill 64. Only Commissioner Jim Duke voted against the measure. The mood of the board’s majority was best summed up by Washam: “I feel that anytime we can avoid a state mandate we should.”