ALMOND: Elections bill saves money and increases voter turnout

The bottom line is the county and smaller municipalities are not getting much bang for the buck with the old elections system.

Stanly County tax dollars are being saved due to House Bill 527 introduced by incumbent Republican Representative Justin Burr. While everyone across the state are talking about municipal elections, Stanly County Citizens are not. House Bill 527 moved the municipal elections to even years, which will assuredly increase voter participation in the more local positions like city council races, mayoral and so forth. Turnout for these local positions in municipalities all over our county is typically dismal at best. Often turnout is lower than 10 percent. Low turnout for these local positions is due to lack of interest by voters who mainly see Congressional or State positions as more important. They also have low turnout because voters simply do not know there is even an election.

Every two years, millions of dollars are spent promoting the elections while in odd year municipal races hardly anyone turns out. This bill is great for voter participation, and will in a sense increase voter awareness in regards to local government.

In Albemarle’s 2013 Mayoral race between current Mayor Ronnie Michael and current Republican City Councilman Chris Bramlett, only 211 votes separated the two candidates. That being said, only 2,057 people casted votes, which is a very small margin for a town the size of Albemarle. In comparison, to a lower interest race, like a school board position up for grabs in the 2016 general election, more people voted in precinct number 7 and number 8 than all the precincts combined in the general mayoral race in 2013. These statistics are virtually mirrored all over the county with even lower turnouts in smaller municipalities. Moving the municipal races to even numbered years was a good decision because it encourages more participation, and it relieves a good portion of the costs to smaller municipalities.

If the ballot has to be two sided in a particular municipality, small towns like New London have to fund the difference which is minuscule in comparison to their previous election costs. Elections are costly, there is a great deal of preparation that goes into them by the staff at the Board of Elections. They work diligently recruiting judges and workers to be at the polls, then train them to handle the ballots correctly and legally which is time consuming. When that is all said and done, they have to pay all of the workers at the polls, where they have in odd numbered years typically had dismal turnout. The expense of the municipalities then has to be reimbursed back to the county in the odd year elections.

The bottom line is the county and smaller municipalities are not getting much bang for the buck with the old elections system. This new system also gives the staff at the board of elections more time for preparation, ensuring that Stanly County’s elections processes run smoothly, and they have the time to recruit the help they need at the polls and train those working to ensure a fair process takes place. It saves municipalities money, and increases voter turnout. This is an all around positive change for Stanly County.