Empty Ballots: Halfway through candidate filing, several municipal races have no candidates

Empty Ballots: Halfway through candidate filing, several municipal races have no candidates

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - The period to file to run for a local municipal position is half gone, as the deadline of July 19 looms just one week away.

While several well-known local politicians have filed or announced their intentions not to run, there are still several races without a candidate.

In North Carolina, if no candidates have filed to run by the end of the filing period, a county board of elections may choose to extend the filing period for five days — but are not required to. After that, if there are still no candidates, the race will be decided by write-in votes.

For Brunswick County, this is not a hypothetical situation.

In 2017, only three candidates filed to run for the four open seats on the Boliva town Board of Aldermen, and only one person filed to run for the three spots open on the Calabash Board of Commissioners.

Brunswick County Board of Elections Director Sara Knotts said those situations worked themselves out, because candidates launched formal write-in campaigns.

Filing

So far this election season, both Bolivia and Calabash still have unfilled ballots — this time for the mayor’s office — but Knotts said otherwise, Brunswick County has seen a pretty robust filing period.

While the deadline isn’t until 5 p.m. next Friday, July 19, Knotts said it is advantageous for potential candidates to file as soon as possible, though she understands why people may be putting it off.

“I know sometimes people want to wait,” Knotts said. “Every day we post the list, and [they wait to] see, ‘Has somebody else signed up?’ Maybe they’re waiting to see if there are vacancies or places where people haven’t filed.”

However, she maintains filing early is the best course of action.

First, she said, there is a point of no return when it comes to filing and changing your mind. The last day to withdraw candidacy and not be included on the ballot is Wednesday, July 17.

Second, and maybe more important to someone hoping to win a contest, Knotts said candidates typically do better when voters can see a name in print.

“Historically it’s easier to get someone to vote for you if your name is printed on that ballot, as opposed to waiting and hoping that they remember to take something or remember to actually hit the button to write your name in," Knotts said. "So getting your name on the ballot if you want that seat is definitely the preferred way to do it, I would think. Just because you aren’t expecting the voter to take an extra step.”

Additionally, if a candidate launches a formal write-in campaign, that person still has to form a candidate committee and adhere to state campaign finance laws.

Impact

While getting candidates to file and voters to turn out can be a challenge, Knotts said in her mind, it’s more than worth the effort.

“Municipal elections, I feel, are important because those are the people that are closest to home. So if you live in one of the municipalities, those are the people making decisions for your day-to-day life," Knotts said.

State officials agree.

“Service at the municipal level often has the most direct impact on the communities in which we live. We hope many candidates sign up to run for local office this year,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections. “We also encourage eligible individuals across the state to make sure they are registered to vote in their local elections.”

Empty Slots

So far, New Hanover County is the only county in the Cape Fear region to have a candidate for every municipal race.

As of the NCSBE’s last update, the following races had no candidates:

  • Brunswick County:
    • Village of Bald Head Island Council
    • Town of Belville Commission (Unexpired Term)
    • Mayor of Bolivia
    • Mayor of Calabash
    • Town of Holden Beach Commission
    • Town of Navassa Commission District 2
    • Town of Navassa Commission District 3
    • Northwest City Council
  • Pender County:
    • Mayor of Atkinson
    • Town of Atkinson Commission (Unexpired)
  • Bladen County:
    • Town of Clarkton Commission
    • Mayor of Dublin
    • Mayor of East Arcadia
    • Town of East Arcadia Commission
    • Mayor of Tarheel
    • Town of Tarheel Commission
    • Mayor of White Lake
  • Columbus County:
    • Mayor of Bolton
    • Mayor of Cerro Gordo
    • Mayor of Chadbourn
    • Chadbourn Town Council
    • Fairbluff Town Commission
    • Lake Waccamaw Town Commisson, West Ward
    • Mayor of Sandyfield
    • Sandyfield Town Council

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