Commissioners consider term limit changes
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS — In an effort to generate higher voter turnout for local elections, the Cornelius town board is considering changing its term limits to line up with national elections.
While most commissioners agree a two-year term for members of the board is appropriate, they may soon vote to switch to a one-year or three-year term until the elections line up with the national races.
“What I learned from the last election is the real point in all of this is getting in line with the federal election just so you have participation,” said Commissioner Dave Gilroy, who initiated this discussion, during commissioners’ regular meeting, Feb. 20. “It just strikes me to have a number like 10 percent of registered voters. No one is sitting up here that is supported by more than three percent of the people of Cornelius, and it feels ludicrous. It really does.”
But former commissioner and Cornelius resident Jim Bensman said the board has been down this road before.
“We went through this once and went from two years to four, then back to two, and the reason was to provide more accountability for commissioners to the residents,” Bensman said. “By extending the term, we made it more difficult for voters to do something about sitting commissioners, and it changes your thought process. Also during major elections, small elections get lost in the noise … and it’s hard to know there’s a campaign going on. Campaigns can create higher turnout just by having aggressive campaigns. So if you’re going to three-year terms, keep in mind it makes incumbency stronger because name recognition is a big deal.”
Gilroy said he supports the two-year term limit, he just wants the elections to be synched to guarantee larger turnout.
“I don’t think the candidates will get lost,” Gilroy said. “It will get people out to vote and they’ll figure out who they want to vote for. We just need more participation.”
Town attorney Bill Brown said he will look into the legislation required to change the town’s term limits, as well as which option, switching to three-year, or one-year terms, temporarily, would work best.
The board will discuss the item again during its next regular meeting, Monday, March 5, at 7 p.m. in town hall.