House approves bill to change Pender County school board elections

House approves bill to change Pender County school board elections

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - State lawmakers approved a bill Monday night to change elections in Pender County. The state House passed House Bill 293 by a 72-41 vote, making Pender County Board of Education elections partisan after more than 40 years of non-partisan races.  The bill now heads to the state Senate for debate.

HB293 also changes school board elections in Onslow County to partisan from non-partisan and clarifies how Board of Education elections are held in Swain County. Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender) Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow) and Rep. Phil Shepherd (R-Onslow) are all primary sponsors of the bill. Rep. Mike Clampitt (R-Swain) is the fourth primary sponsor.

Voters in Pender County have not seen party affiliations listed on the ballot next to Board of Education candidates since 1976. In Onslow County the school board elections have been non-partisan since 1996. Both counties will see the changes take effect with elections in 2018.

"Note that providing transparency on the ballot relative to a voter registration that already exists is not interjecting partisanship on the board," Millis said about the bill. "Past, current, and future board members have a party affiliation, this measure only provides the voters the information on the ballot of an affiliation that already exists."

Pender County Board of Education member Don Hall said he supports the bill. Hall says the school board passed a resolution at a recent meeting opposing HB293, with Hall and fellow member Brad George voting against the resolution. 
"I think that the bill if passed, will make our area be more similar to other areas of the state as far as elections and partisanship go, and may also allow the public to better understand a candidate's positions on various issues," Hall said in an email.

Click here to read the text of House Bill 293. No word when the state Senate may begin debate on the bill.

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