Judge orders referendum on Vote Yes plan to reshape Fayetteville elections

Voters should decide whether at-large seats will be added to City Council, ruling says

By Michael Futch | CityView Today | September 1, 2022

A judge has ruled that a plan to restructure how Fayetteville City Council members are elected should be put before voters in a Nov. 8 referendum.

Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons ruled Thursday that a referendum on the Vote Yes election plan be placed on the November ballot to allow voters to decide if they want to change the way the City Council is structured.

“I’m ordering that this measure be put on the ballot,” Ammons said. “This is important.”

He then told Cumberland County Attorney Rick Moorefield to “get the order done today.”

Attorney Edwin Speas, who represented the county Board of Elections in the civil case, said the city of Fayetteville will work with the Board of Elections to begin the process.

On Aug. 22, the Fayetteville City Council voted against putting the proposal on the ballot after some council members raised questions about whether Vote Yes Fayetteville followed the rules on circulating a petition. The advocacy group filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city and the county Board of Elections asking that the referendum be put before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The Vote Yes Fayetteville initiative calls for changing the way City Council members are elected.

Currently, the mayor is elected citywide, and all nine council members are elected by district. If passed by voters, Vote Yes would change the makeup to five single-district seats and four members elected at large. The mayor would still be elected at large.

Proponents of the plan say it will give voters more representation on the City Council because each voter would help choose the mayor, four at-large council members, and a district representative.

CityView TODAY publisher Tony Chavonne, a former mayor, is among the supporters of the initiative.

Those who oppose the initiative, including six members of the current council, say it would dilute representation by increasing the size of the districts.

“I’m real happy for the people to have a chance to vote,” Bobby Hurst, a leader of Vote Yes Fayetteville, said after the hearing.

Fayetteville attorney Lonnie Player Jr., who represented Vote Yes in the case, said he was pleased with the outcome.

“He (Judge Ammons) read the statutes clearly and correctly and arrived at the proper result,” Player said.

Speas declined to comment on the decision.

The original story can be viewed on CityView Today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.