While voter turnout in the North Carolina tends to run close to 70% in presidential election years, this number drops dramatically in non-presidential years. Only 44% of the registered voters in the state voted in 2010. The number drops even more precipitously in local elections in an off year like 2013. In 2011, for example only 21% of those registered, voted. Yet these municipal elections are extremely important. They determine leadership at the local level controlling important decision-making about public schools, local regulations, future planning, sewer/water, and taxes, among other things, that are important to the quality of life in an area.
This year, nine NC school districts will elect school board members. These individuals set school priorities, hire superintendents, adopt budgets, set student achievement goals, determine when new buildings will be built, and how boundaries are drawn. School boards set policies that determine which courses and programs are offered and what texts, tools and technology are purchased. The quality of education in a county, or in some cases cities, depends heavily on decisions made by individuals elected to school boards.
Many local and municipal officials are also going to be elected in 2013. The situation can be confusing. Some local elections are in October and most others are on the more traditional election day in November. Individuals concerned about the direction of North Carolina at not just the state and national level but also about critically important local decision making cannot ignore these completely off year elections. Mayors and city council members are responsible for decisions about housing, public safety ,neighborhood development, and transportation.
One factor in these elections that is often overlooked is that many of the individuals elected in local elections “earn their spurs” and frequently run later for higher office. It really matters who is elected mayor or to a school board not merely for the essential roles these individuals play at the local level, but also as stepping stones for future elected office bids.
Citizens who care about children and the future of North Carolina cannot ignore local elections. To find out exactly when and where these elections will be held, you can
- go to the web site of your county Board of Elections,
- check your sample ballots at the State Board of Elections, or
- see this list by county prepared by Democracy NC (Excel, PDF)
By mid-September, the NC Center for Voter Education and UNC-TV will be releasing a voter guide for the races across the state. This may be your “one stop” for information on the local elections: http://www.ncvoterguide.org/
Also, see our other election resources
Remember: The new voter ID rules do not go into effect until 2014. You and your neighbors will not need an official ID when you vote this year.