Mt. Pleasant mayoral race could change - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Mt. Pleasant mayoral race could change

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Mt. Pleasant could change how its mayor is elected Mt. Pleasant could change how its mayor is elected
MOUNT PLEASANT, SC -

Two Mt. Pleasant Town Councilmen are pushing for the town to change how it elects its mayor.

Currently, the mayoral candidate will win if that candidate captures the most votes, even if is less than 50 percent of the votes cast. Councilmen Chris Nickels introduced an ordinance that will make it so the candidate can only win with more than 50 percent of the vote. If the candidate gets less than that, there will be a runoff between the two candidates with the highest number of votes.

"We are a town of 73,000 people," Nickels said. "It's a sophisticated town. We have smart voters, and we want the majority of citizens electing the next mayor and not a minority electing the next mayor."

Nickels said the high number of candidates who normally crowd the race motivated him and Councilman Chris O'Neal to push for this new system.

"Let's say five people got involved in the race, and they, for the most part divided the vote," Nickels said. "If you snuck in and got 25 percent of the vote, you could be elected mayor of the fourth largest city in South Carolina and the 36th fastest area in the whole country. That didn't make a whole lot of sense to us."

Nickels expects to see more candidates join the field, but he hopes those candidates will work harder to connect with more voters.

"It will enlarge at least the initial group [of candidates], and then it will also force folks to look for coalitions and try to bring them together," he said.

Because of a recent Supreme Court decision, the town of Mt. Pleasant does not have to get this change approved by the Department of Justice.  Before that decision, all changes to voting procedures had to be approved by the U.S. government.

Nickels did say this change could cost between $20,000 and $30,000 because of the extra staff needed for the possible runoff.

A town committee is holding a special meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday to vote on this change.  After that, the full town council will vote to approve the new system.

Nickels said, if approved, the new system will be in place by August 15, which is the first day candidates can file to run for the Mayor.

The Executive Director of the Charleston County Board of Elections said his staff is prepared for the possible additional runoff which is scheduled for November 19. Election day is November 5.

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