MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – A bill sponsored by South Carolina Representative Russell Fry of Surfside Beach would change the way some vote for city or county council members.
The bill would prohibit at-large voting for more than half the members on a local council.
Right now, the City of Myrtle Beach uses at-large voting for all members, which means all voters who live in the city are allowed to vote for anyone running for council or mayor.
City Spokesperson Mark Kruea says that’s always been the city’s method, but they have talked about different options in the past.
“At-large means that all seven of them, the mayor and six council people, represent the whole city. So, if you don’t get along with one council people, you have six others that you can turn to,” said Kruea.
Across the United States, the NAACP has said that at-large method discriminates against minorities because it prevents some voters from electing a candidate if they’re not a majority in the district.
“Fortunately, we have a good track record of electing minorities and women to city council. So, we’re not in jeopardy there,” said Kruea.
The new bill would prevent half of the representatives on a council from being elected by the at-large method.
That would push city leaders to look to other methods, like dividing the city into districts, or having a mix of at-large candidates and district representatives. Still, each option could have its own challenges.
“When you look at the minority population locally, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to draw six, single-member district where one of those was a majority-minority district. I think you’d have to go to a nine-member council in order to achieve that,” said Kruea.
Kruea says city leaders bring up this issue periodically, but for them to make a change, it would have to go through the Justice Department.
News13 reached out to Representative Fry to see if he had comment on the bill. So far, we haven’t heard back.