At their June 8 work session, the Raleigh City Council majority announced a self-serving and unprecedented power grab designed to keep themselves in office for an extra year.

With NO public engagement and NO public vote, they unilaterally announced several decisions that threaten to erode our democracy – delaying elections until November 2022 and eliminating the option for a runoff if the “winning” candidate doesn’t get a majority of the votes.

Because of census delays, it’s widely agreed that most NC municipalities can’t hold valid elections as planned this Fall, and the solution was a bill to move them to March 2022 when statewide primary elections are already on the calendar. However now the Council majority has announced they have concerns about a March date, and want to delay the next Raleigh election until November of 2022!

Ostensibly their concern is that the primaries might get further delayed, from March until May, potentially leaving Raleigh to fund the next election on its own. That logic is flimsy and duplicitous. There is no reason to believe statewide primaries would have to be moved to May, but if that were the case, Raleigh’s municipal election could be tied to the date of the primaries rather than moved to November. And if there is a desire to move future elections to November of even-numbered years, we could hold this delayed election in March (or May) and then schedule the next one for November of 2024.

The Council majority has also decreed that future elections will be decided by plurality vote rather than by runoffs. Currently in a race with more than two candidates, the winner must take 50% plus 1 of the vote; if not, the closest challenger has the right to call for a runoff. In the 2019 election, three candidates could have called for runoff elections, but none did. In 2017, mayoral candidate Charles Francis called for a runoff but ultimately lost to incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane. In 2001 Charles Meeker won his runoff election to oust incumbent Mayor Paul Coble. Do we really want to eliminate the option for runoffs?

Under the new rules, a candidate could take office with much less than a majority of the vote. This Council is no doubt aware that they are increasingly unpopular with an increasingly large segment of voters. Multiple challengers are likely to attempt to unseat them and split the anti-incumbent vote. In our legacy system, the strongest challenger would then have had the opportunity to call for a runoff. But in a plurality election, the incumbent most likely would remain in office even though the majority of voters would have cast their vote for someone else.

What can Raleigh residents do in light of this self-serving power grab? Stay tuned as Livable Raleigh explores the possibilities….