The N.C. House Elections Committee voted Thursday to study moving municipal elections to even-numbered years, when turnout is likely to be higher.
Many town and cities elect their mayors and councils in odd-numbered years, when the races are typically the only item on the ballot. Rep. Carl Ford, a China Grove Republican and sponsor of House Bill 402, says that results in turnout averaging 14 percent.
“What we’re trying to improve is voter participation,” Ford said. “There are some towns that have to extend the filing period just so they can get enough people to run.”
Ford’s proposal would launch a study of moving the elections, looking at turnout data and potential cost savings from opening the polls less often.
But Rep. John Faircloth, a High Point Republican, said some towns are already holding elections in even years and haven’t solved the problem of low participation. “I think you’ll find that across our state, there are differences of opinions as to which year works best,” he said.
And Rep. George Graham, a Kinston Democrat, said towns and cities should decide when they want to hold elections. “This is a local issue and could best be handled at the local level,” he said.
Also Thursday, the Elections Committee voted in favor of a bill that gives counties an extra 20 months to switch to paper ballots. Some rural counties still use electronic voting machines, which must be updated by 2018. House Bill 373 would extend that deadline to September 2019.
Both bills now head to the full House.