After much ado — nothing?
That sums up the recent discussions by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners regarding ending the primary election system under which the city operates.
As we’ve detailed many times, the system dictates that any time there’s an open city seat with more than two candidates, a primary is held before the real election day, with the two top vote-getters from the primary moving on to the actual election.
Holding this extra run-off costs the city in excess of $10,000 each time, and often elicits such a low voter turn-out as to seem more of a joke than a way to select the city’s government.
Also being considered was the idea of moving city elections from odd-number years, when they are often the only elections being held, to even-number years so they could correspond with other run-offs such as elections for state and federal government. Again, this could save the city in excess of $10,000 for every odd-numbered year election no longer held.
After consideration, and holding a public hearing, the board of commissioners opted to do nothing, leaving the primary system in place on odd-numbered years.
In discussing their decisions, the commissioners by and large said the extra 10 grand was simply the cost of doing business, and that they weren’t really all that concerned with drawing a larger turnout to elections (which sometimes don’t even draw 10 percent of registered voters).
Some also pointed out that had the plurality method of electing candidates been in place four years ago, Mayor Deborah Cochran would not have won — she finished second to Teresa Lewis in a crowded primary field before winning the “real” election a few weeks later.
Mayor Cochran has done a wonderful job representing and working for the residents of Mount Airy, as did Lewis when she was later appointed to fill the seat Cochran vacated after she won the mayor’s post. We suspect few would argue either of those points.
But this isn’t about the past, nor is it about eliminating an expense that is truly necessary.
Drawing more voter interest, at a lower cost, during elections should be among the main considerations the city board considers when looking at city elections. We’re at a loss why the board opted to drop this proposal, because such inaction sure seems to be the opposite on both counts.