House legislators want to consider moving all municipal elections to even-numbered years.
An elections bill that surfaced Thursday would launch a study of the change. Most cities and towns in North Carolina hold municipal elections in odd-numbered years.
Turnout for those elections is typically low, but the campaigns benefit from more attention than they’d get if more prominent races were also on the ballot.
“It is the intent of the General Assembly to provide for even-numbered year municipal elections, effective with the 2020 election cycle,” the bill says, charging a legislative committee with studying the issue and making recommendations before the General Assembly returns next year.
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The N.C. League of Municipalities is opposing the change. “It is a recipe for unintended consequences,” League second vice president Michael Lazzarra said in a news release. “The provision amounts to a dictate from Raleigh telling local people how to run local elections.”
The same elections bill also includes a provision requiring the attorney general to defend any lawsuits challenging legislative redistricting plans for local governments. The legislature has recently redrawn school board and county commission districts in Wake County as well as city council districts in Greensboro. A plan to redistrict the Asheville City Council has surfaced in recent days.
One of the bill’s backers, Republican Rep. Paul Stam of Apex, blamed Attorney General Roy Cooper for declining to defend court challenges to some of the redistricting plans.
The bill would also set the ballot order for candidates in N.C. Court of Appeals races. The party who controls the governor’s mansion would have its candidates appear first on the ballot. This year, that means the Republican candidates in multiple Court of Appeals races would appear above their Democratic opponents.
Studies have found that the first candidate listed often has an advantage because some low-information voters will pick the first name they see. But studies differ on how much of a boost candidates get from being first.