Published: Mar 12, 2013 04:40 PM
Modified: Mar 14, 2013 09:00 AM
MORRISVILLE - Town leaders are rethinking the way voters elect members to the Town Council.
In Morrisville, voters can choose among candidates who represent four different districts and those who run for two at-large seats, as well as the mayor. But some Morrisville Town Council members say the mix of districts and at-large seats is confusing for voters.
Maybe its time, they say, to switch to a system in which all council seats are at-large and represent the entire town.
Weve talked about this several times over the years, said Mayor Jackie Holcombe. What it comes down to is looking at what other municipalities our size do.
Morrisville has a population of about 20,000. North Carolina has about 519 communities with 25,000 people or less. Of those, about 460 use at-large systems, according to the University of North Carolina School of Government.
An at-large approach would return Morrisville to the method it used until the 1980s. Thats when the town formed districts to ensure the Town Council had a representative from the historically black Shiloh community.
At the time, Morrisville pledged to make sure the community had a place on the council, said Councilwoman Liz Johnson.
The change was also seen as a way to bring geographic diversity to the council so elected leaders wouldnt all live in the same neighborhood.
But during the 2011 election, at least three people who live in the same part of town were elected, and no one from the Shiloh community was elected. So town leaders say they think the current method isnt effective.
Thats partly due to a changing town population and redistricting. After the 2010 U.S. Census, the council had to redraw the voting lines to make sure there was a population balance within the districts.
The resulting districts split up some communities and cut across different sections of town, making it hard for some residents to tell which district they were in. Johnsons district, for example, is not physically connected.
Town leaders have talked about changing the voting method before, in 2008 and again in 2011. But potential changes did not get enough council support.
The last time, I was in favor of (going) at-large, Johnson said. I think its fine to look at it again and ask the community to weigh in again. It continues to come up, I think, because it is confusing to the public.
Residents often vote only for a candidate in the district they live in, not realizing that they are allowed to vote for all open seats.
Town staff are expected to present election options to the Town Council this month.