You can make a strong argument that Senate Bill 749 would improve trust in elections. But it's time for the General Assembly to drop the idea and move on.
I’m not sure that concerns about even-number membered BoEs materially increasing the risk of dysfunction in the event of partisan splits “are way overblown.” But I have a much more fundamental objection to the proposal: it does nothing to address the lack of representation of independent voters.
The number of independents (“unaffiliateds” in NCSBE parlance) has been growing faster than the number of Democrats or Republicans for decades. Back in 1993, 92% of all voters were Ds or Rs and only 8% were independent; today those respective numbers are 64% and 36%. In 2017, the number of registered independents statewide surpassed the number of Republicans; since March of last year, there have been more independents than Democrats.
So one might reasonably expect that about one-third of the members of the BoEs would be independent, to ensure those voters are fairly represented with respect to the important matters those bodies manage. But in fact, out of 305 members of the county and state BoEs, there are currently 203 Ds, 102 Rs…and exactly zero Us.
It is literally illegal for an independent voter to serve on any BoE: current law specifies that nominees must be registered with one or the other of the two largest parties. But prior to 2017, it was possible for the parties to nominate Us for county BoEs—the LPNC nominated an independent voter for the Wake County BoE in 2015, for example—but so far as I know, neither the NC Dems or NCGOP have ever nominated an independent voter to serve on a county or state BoE.
So, how about keeping the size of the county BoEs at three: one D, one R, and one U? And we could expand the state BoE from five to nine, and accord everyone three seats. Not only would this address a glaring injustice but it would pretty much eliminate concerns about partisan decision-making while averting the risk of dysfunctional deadlocks.
What’s not to like?