Our View: Put election changes to a vote

Mar. 17, 2013 @ 04:41 AM

The High Point City Council is expected to resume discussion Monday on proposals to revise the city’s system for electing a mayor and City Council. It seems pretty clear how the City Council should proceed.
Earlier this month, members of the body approved a measure that would return city elections to odd-numbered years and reinstate a primary to narrow a field of candidates for a seat to two before the November election. The changes were approved by a 6-3 vote, with Mayor Bernita Sims and Councilmen Foster Douglas and Jeff Golden objecting.
The action came amid concerns during the past couple of years over lack of a primary since the city switched elections to even-numbered years beginning with the 2008 election. The switch to even-numbered years, to correspond with state and national elections, was made in an attempt to boost voter participation in municipal elections after turnout in the 2005 city election totaled only about 11 percent.
City Council’s 6-3 vote in early March raised eyebrows in the Legislature, however. City election system changes must be enacted through legislative action, but because of City Council’s split vote, members of the Guilford County legislative delegation were hesitant to introduce legislation to effect the changes. Members of the delegation, headed by former High Point City Councilman John Faircloth who’s now in the N.C. House, indicated they’d prefer to see a referendum on the issue.
So, the course City Council should take seems fairly clear. If changes in the election system are desired, City Council should ask the Legislature to set a referendum to determine the will of High Point citizens. In fact, that’s what the people are saying themselves — based on results of a poll conducted last week on the Enterprise’s website, hpe.com.
In the poll — which is found on the home page of hpe.com — we said: “N.C. legislators seem reluctant to make changes to High Point’s voting system without a referendum of citizens. Should High Point City Council call for a vote on proposed changes?”
Nearly two-thirds (64.4 percent) of people responding clicked the “City should always vote on such changes” option. Another 32.7 percent responded by clicking “Yes.” And a mere 2.9 percent of those responding clicked “No.”
The Enterprise’s online poll is, of course, an unscientific survey. However, based on the numbers in this case, we’d say the responses give a pretty accurate depiction of public sentiment. We’d suggest City Council respond likewise.