One of the first orders of business in the new year for one Mount Airy official will be pushing for a change in city election procedure — even it if means shortening his own term.
Jon Cawley, a member of the board of commissioners, wants to move forward in January with a proposal to shift the election schedule from odd to even years. That has been suggested both to save money and have a larger voter turnout.
Cawley announced his desire to pursue this at the commissioners’ last meeting earlier this month, saying it was an “important” issue, and he reiterated that intention Wednesday.
Concerns about moving from an odd- to even-numbered system surfaced after a city primary in October — which had a price tag of $10,000, but attracted less than 6 percent of Mount Airy’s registered voters.
Momentum for a change has been building not only in Mount Airy, but Dobson, where officials approved a resolution last month calling for the N.C. General Assembly to move municipal elections to even-numbered years.
Cawley said he was unaware of Dobson’s stance when earlier mentioning the subject at a Mount Airy board meeting, but is willing to follow suit with officials in the county seat.
“I had honestly only been thinking about Mount Airy, but if it would work for the whole state, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that,” Cawley said of a statewide approach rather that this city acting on its own.
Moving to an even-numbered year would allow municipal elections to be held at the same time as those on the county, state and federal levels — which will include the presidential race in 2012.
“I think more people will come out and vote if they’ve got a larger docket to choose from,” said Cawley, who believes the more choices citizens have, the better for the system overall.
A separate concern has surrounded the idea of doing away with primaries altogether in the city, which Cawley said might require a constitutional change since primaries are meant to ensure that a candidate is elected by a majority. Under the existing procedure for the municipality’s non-partisan elections, a primary is required if three or more candidates file for a particular office.
Willing To Cut Term
Cawley said at the city commissioners’ meeting earlier this month that he wants the board to begin discussing the “pros and cons” of the change in January.
An obvious implication of a shift to elections in even years would be adjusting the terms of present officials to that schedule — which would mean either shortening or lengthening them by one year.
Under the present arrangement, Cawley, as well as Commissioner Steve Yokeley and Mayor Deborah Cochran, won’t be up for re-election again until 2013, having won four-terms in November 2009.
“Right now, all of us are elected in odd years, (but) since next year would be an even year,” he added, it might be that “our seats need to be open then.
“We either have to go three years or five years — it would have to be one or the other for it to go to an even number.”
Cawley said he wouldn’t object to having his term cut. “It seems to me that you would shorten it — it just seems to me to be the ethical thing for you to do.”
When Dobson officials discussed the issue in November, it was noted that passage of the statewide measure would lengthen commissioner terms by a year.
Cawley said Wednesday he would accept that consequence as well, which would commit someone to a longer term of service.
“It does not matter to me — I wouldn’t mind serving another year.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.