The Twin City takes second place this week in part because of its structure. The city is divided into eight wards, half of which currently have African-American representation. There are no at-large offices besides the mayor, who does not get a vote except as a tiebreaker — which with an even number of councilmembers is sure to happen a few times a year. Reps earn a four-year term upon election, held in off years until 2016, when legislation introduced by former state Rep. Dale Folwell — unasked for and unwelcome, incidentally, by council — moves the elections to even years. On paper, Winston-Salem ranks last, but in practice it seems to be working pretty well the last few cycles.
2. High Point
High Point City Council elections suffered from a near-fatal flaw in a town plagued by voter apathy: Elections were held in even years, with candidates buried way at the bottom of lengthy ballots. We prefer city council elections to be nonpartisan, held in odd years and with four-year terms. But voters in High Point approved a referendum moving elections to odd-numbered years, which will begin in 2017. The city is broken down into six wards, with reps from each and two at-large seats. The mayor gets a vote, which we like.
Greensboro’s current configuration is thoughtful and mathematically sound. Every citizen gets to vote every two years on five members of council — a district rep, mayor and three at-large seats — and five makes a majority vote in this nine-member council. Two majority-minority districts are not quite in line with the demographic — Greensboro is less than 50 percent white and about 40 percent black — and the mayor gets a vote. The only change we’d like to see is an extension of terms to four years, which we think gives the reps a chance to learn the job and be effective before gearing up for re-election. The changes proposed by Sen. Trudy Wade would bounce Greensboro down to third place.