The voting’s done, the results announced, and the city election season is over for another year.
Oh, wait, that’s not true. Mount Airy taxpayers get to foot the bill for two local elections this year.
Yesterday city voters — a few of them anyway — combined with about 100 early voters to whittle the field down from three candidates to two for the at-large board of commissioners seat held by Theresa Lewis. The incumbent announced earlier this year she would not seek re-election, needing to focus more of her time and energy on her business and family.
So three candidates, Gail Proffitt-Kernodle, Bruce Springthorpe and Scott Graham, mounted campaigns for the seat. In Mount Airy, if more than two candidates vie for a particular seat, the city code requires a run-off election to par the field to two candidates. Whether three or 33 candidates file for a single office, the run-off, or primary, is held and the two candidates who receive the most votes advance to another election to fill the seat.
We really have to question this policy. Given the apparent lack of interest on behalf of city residents, and the expense of holding a second election, why does Mount Airy act in this manner? One could argue, we suppose, that a candidate needs to ultimately receive more than 50 percent of a vote in order to fully have majority support of city residents, and a three-way (or larger) field could have someone winning an election with far less than 50 percent of the vote.
Then again, Bill Clinton won the 1992 election with just 43 percent of the popular vote and the 1996 election with 49 percent of the vote. George W. Bush won the 2000 election with slightly less than 48 percent of the popular vote. All three of those elections were three-way battles, and the federal government recognizes the candidate with the highest vote total as the victor, regardless of the percentage. Yes, with presidential elections it is, in the end, the Electoral College which ultimately determines the winner, but that electoral body almost always matches up with the popular vote in selecting a winner.
Surely, if a multi-candidate field for the office of president needs but a single election to choose a winner, the same could be said for local municipal elections. Particularly in this era of economic recession, holding two elections when one would suffice seems fiscally irresponsible.