HARDEEVILLE, SC (WTOC) - Hardeeville City Council members and the mayor are selected through at-large races, but the city is looking into possibly changing the way residents vote for the people who represent them.
Council members gave a presentation on five different types of elections that can be adopted in Hardeeville, then asked for the public's input.
Now, when you vote for the council members, it's an at-large election. Three of the council members live in Sun City. One lives in downtown Hardeeville, and the other lives off of Highway 278. This issue was brought up by residents who were concerned that entire population may not be represented accurately by the city council.
"I'm glad, in one way that three of you are from Sun City. I know my voice is really being heard. I may not agree with you all, but my voice is there, but I feel bad for the rest of the city who doesn't have that kind of access," said Tom Balliet, Hardeeville resident.
Hardeeville's City Council designed Tuesday's meeting to see how the public felt about its current, at-large election system.
"We really just want to see how they feel. If they're happy with at-large, we'll keep it at-large. If they want to look at maybe going into districts or something like that, we'll look at that. Then we'll look at where we want to draw the district lines. The state would have to come down to look at that to see where the district lines will be drawn," said Hardeeville Media Director Juan Singleton. "We've had some people at different council meetings saying that we should address the topic, and look at districts for the future."
Others say a city separated so one person representing each district – only creates a divisive mindset that doesn't benefit anyone.
"If we do this redistricting, would that not put the perception that we are split and instead of being a total entity? One community, all for one, one for all?" asked Rhonda Cradle, Hardeeville resident.
If the council decides to move forward, they would have to put a referendum on a ballot and get enough votes to change the system. One voter says, that's the only way they're going to settle the argument fair and square.
"Let's have a referendum. It's real simple. It's not a matter in what you think or what you don't think. If you say you represent the people of Hardeeville, then you certainly will have a referendum and vote for that at the next council meeting," said Sal Arzillo, Hardeeville resident.
This was just a forum, no final decisions were made Tuesday night. Hardeeville Mayor Bronco Bostic says the council hopes to decide whether to put the election referendum on a ballot sometime in the near future.
If you couldn't make it to the meeting and you want to take a closer look at the possible election methods, read below:
Each municipality in this State shall provide by ordinance for the election of its council. Councils shall select any one of the following methods of election to council:
- Members of the council elected from the municipality at large.
- One member elected from each ward of the municipality by the qualified electors of the ward. Candidates seeking office from a particular ward shall be residents of the ward during their entire terms of office.
- Some members elected from wards provided for in (2) and the remainder elected from the municipality at large.
- Members are required to be residents of particular wards but be elected from the municipality at large.
- Some members may be required to be residents of particular wards and others may be residents of the municipality without regard to a particular ward and all members shall be elected from the municipality at-large.
Regardless of the form adopted by the municipality, the mayor shall be elected at large.
Mayors and councilman shall be qualified electors of the municipality and, if they are elected subject to residential or ward requirements as provided in this section, they shall be qualified electors of the ward prescribed for their election qualification.