New bill would make Onslow Co. school board elections partisan

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT)–A new bill in the N.C. General Assembly could affect the way you vote for Onslow County’s school board.

HB 293 would change the board’s election from non-partisan to partisan.

The primary goal behind the change is to increase voter turnout at elections. Currently, the school board’s election is held during the May primary.

“During that May election, we have a number of people who come out for the primaries but they don’t know that it’s the general election for the Board of Education because it’s a nonpartisan race,” board member Bob Williams said. “So a lot of people who would normally come out and vote for candidates simply don’t because they don’t understand the process.”

The Onslow County School Board considered this issue back in 2015. Williams wrote a resolution asking the board to support then House Bill 324. The resolution stated that voter turnout in the county has been historically lower in the primaries than in the general elections.

“Moving the elections, which is the major part of the bill, to the General Election in November will double the amount of individuals that come out and vote,” Williams said.

The bill was introduced March 9. It’s currently in the State and Local Government Committee.

Before the bill was introduced, the Carteret County Board of Education passed a resolution on March 6 making all future elections non-partisan in the county.

“Back in 1992, our county had a referendum that looked at the idea of when school board elections should be held and should they be partisan,” Perry Harker, board chair, said. “83% of the voters decided that it shouldn’t be a partisan election.”

According to the resolution, 33% of Carteret County voters are unaffiliated. The resolution states those voters would be excluded from the primaries. Harker says any change to the election process should be approved by residents in a referendum before the change is implemented.

 

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