Local Politics

City council races coming up across the Triangle this fall

Posted September 8, 2015

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— North Carolina voters, you have some decisions to make this fall – just not everybody all at once.

Voters in cities and towns across the state will select mayors and council members as well as a few school board members.

Depending on what kind of municipal election system your local government uses, voters may need to make picks in September, October and/or November. Here are some things to check now in order to make sure your vote counts:

Check your registration. Voters who will head to the polls in October should be registered to vote by Sept. 11, according to Wake County Elections Director Gary Sims.

The State Board of Elections has an online tool that allows voters to check their registration and has more information about voter registration. Along with new voters, voters who have moved should also update their information with the local board of elections.

As of right now, North Carolina voters who come to the polls during the early-voting period can register and vote on the same day. Early voting for the October election begins Sept. 24 and runs through Oct. 3.

"We are encouraging people to register by the deadline to be safe," Sims said.

That's because same-day registration is available only due to a court order and could be changed if the situation with a federal lawsuit over North Carolina's 2013 election law changes.

The municipal elections this year are scheduled to be last set of elections for which voters will not encounter some sort of photo identification requirement. While election officials will likely remind voters that they should be able to show a photo ID at the polls in the 2016 elections, voters are not required to have one to vote in 2015.

Know who and what is on the ballot. Voters will mostly find mayors and city council members on their ballots this fall, although there are a few jurisdictions, such as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district that will elect school board members.

For voters unsure of who might be on the ballot, the simplest thing to do is to check with the local board of elections.

Gov. Pat McCrory has pushed legislators to borrow nearly $3 billion to build roads and other state infrastructure. Initially, he wanted this bond vote on Nov. 3. However, time is running short to get such a referendum on the ballot, and it's unclear as of early September if lawmakers will go along with the request at all.

If there is no referendum, then the vast majority of voters who don't live in cities or towns will sit this election out.

Some elections are partisan; others aren't. Residents of different cities in North Carolina cast their votes at different times.

Cities with partisan elections – in which candidates explicitly run as Republicans or Democrats – head to the polls for their primaries in September. Those cities will hold their general elections in November. Charlotte is the largest of these cities, and most municipalities with partisan elections are outside the Triangle. The exception is Sanford, which will hold a partisan city council primary in September.

The majority of cities in North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham and Cary, hold nonpartisan elections, in which a politician's party is not explicitly listed. Voters in those cities will be headed to the polls in October, November or both, depending on their method of elections.

Nonpartisan elections are not all the same. There are three main types of nonpartisan elections voters in the Triangle will encounter.

  • Many smaller cities, including Apex, Garner and Knightdale in Wake County and Chapel Hill in Orange County, will hold winner-take-all elections for municipal offices on Nov. 3. Whoever gets the most votes, even if it's only a plurality, wins.
  • Raleigh and Cary are among those cities who hold their main election on Oct. 6. It is possible for the front-runner to win such an election outright, but it's not guaranteed. There will be a November runoff if a candidate doesn't take home the requisite number of votes. In Raleigh's four-way race for two at-large council seats, for example, candidates will need to garner more than 25 percent of the votes cast in order to avoid a November runoff.
  • Other cities, including Durham, will hold nonpartisan primaries in October. These primaries winnow large fields of candidates down to finalists who will run in November. In Durham, for example, the four candidates for mayor will be cut down to two. Those two remaining candidates will run against each other in November's general election.

Some cities cross borders. If you live near your county's border, it's worth knowing that some cities cross county lines. For example, some voters who live in Durham County live inside Raleigh's city limits, and there are some Wake County voters who live inside Durham.

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