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If a county commissioner were to resign, how would his replacement be determined?

Ken Little
StarNews
New Hanover County seal

Replacing a county commissioner would involve an appointment or an election, depending on the circumstances and timing.

Marvin N. McFadyen, election director for the New Hanover County Board of Elections, cited North Carolina law 153A‑27: Vacancies on the Board of Commissioners.

It reads, in part: “If a vacancy occurs on the board of commissioners, the remaining members of the board shall appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy. If the number of vacancies on the board is such that a quorum of the board cannot be obtained, the chairman of the board shall appoint enough members to make up a quorum, and the board shall then proceed to fill the remaining vacancies.”

The law goes on to specify “that if the member being replaced was serving a two‑year term, or if the member was serving a four‑year term and the vacancy occurs later than 60 days before the general election held after the first two years of the term, the appointment to fill the vacancy is for the remainder of the unexpired term.”

Otherwise, the law states, the term of the person appointed to fill the vacancy extends to the first Monday in December next following the first general election held more than 60 days after the day the vacancy occurs.

“At that general election, a person shall be elected to the seat vacated, either to the remainder of the unexpired term or, if the term has expired, to a full term.”

To be eligible for appointment to fill a vacancy, “a person must be a member of the same political party as the member being replaced, if that member was elected as the nominee of a political party” and “be a resident of the same district as the member being replaced, if the county is divided into electoral districts.”

The law specifies that the board of commissioners or the clerk of Superior Court, “as the case may be, shall consult the county executive committee of the appropriate political party before filling a vacancy, but neither the board nor the clerk of the Superior Court is bound by the committee’s recommendation.”

Regarding an election, McFadyen said if the vacancy occurs within the first two years of being elected to a four-year term:

Statute 153A-27 requires that a person be elected to the seat vacated for the remainder of the unexpired term, and the vacancy occurs: “Beginning on the 10th day before the filing period ends … a nomination shall be made by the county executive committee of each political party and the names of the nominees shall be printed on the general election ballots.”

Further, “Prior to the 10th day before the filing period ends … nominations shall be made by primary election.”

“In summary, the person appointed to fill the vacancy would either have to be nominated by the party or by primary election and elected during the general election to serve the remainder of the unexpired term,” McFadyen said.

User-contributed question by:
charles blanton

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