Updated 2:35 p.m.
Voters around the Charlotte region head to the polls today to pick the leaders of local cities, towns and the second largest school district in North Carolina. And in Mecklenburg County, voters are also being asked to decide on a quarter-cent sales tax to benefit arts, parks and greenways and education.
Here's what to know.
Thirteen people are running for three seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education. The seats are at-large, meaning residents countywide can cast ballots. The public school system winners will help lead is the second largest in the state, with about 148,000 students, 175 schools and roughly 19,000 employees.
The school board race isn't the only countywide issue on the ballot in Mecklenburg. Voters are also being asked to decide on a quarter-cent sales tax increase to help fund arts and cultural organizations, parks and greenways and education. The tax is projected to generate about $50 million. Forty-five percent — or about $22.5 million — of that would go to the Arts & Science Council. You can read up on the controversial proposal here.
WFAE's "Charlotte Talks" hosted a public forum with voices from both sides of the debate just last week. You can listen to that here.
Hillary Crittendon voted today at Alexander Graham Middle School in south Charlotte. She was strongly in favor of the tax increase.
"I mostly came out because of the sales tax vote," Crittendon said. "I just think that public funding for the arts makes a lot of sense. I think it’s a way to provide long-term support for some of the most critical nonprofits in our community."
John Powell was also at Alexander Graham Middle, campaigning for Republican candidates. He had concerns about how the city would use the money raised by the tax increase.
"We’re all for parks, we’re all for our children, we’re all for the schools," Powell said. "So that message, which that million-dollar campaign has been great about getting that 'for' vote out there, hasn’t been a full disclosure in my opinion. You know, we really don’t know where those funds are going to be allocated."
Charlotte Mayor, City Council
First-term Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican David Rice. There are also five candidates running for four at-large seats on City Council. Districts 2, 4 and 6 are also being contested. The winners will lead the Carolinas' largest city for the next two years, including during the rapidly approaching 2020 Republican National Convention.
There are races for the Cornelius and Davidson commissions, Huntersville mayor and commission, Matthews mayor and commission, Mint Hill mayor and commission and Pineville mayor and commission. You can see where many of the candidates stand on important issues in WFAE's 2019 Voter Guide.
In Davidson and Mooresville, which is Iredell County, voters are being asked whether to sell the towns' cable and internet system, Continuum. And in Pineville, voters can decide whether to expand their town's council from four seats to six.
Other Regional Races
Municipal leadership positions are up in the air all around the Charlotte region. Be sure to check with your individual county Board of Elections if you're not sure what's on the ballot in your area. But here are a few races we're keeping an eye on:
- First-term Gastonia Mayor Walker Reid is being challenged by Kim Price, who has raised far more money than the incumbent. Several issues are facing Gastonia, including growth from people priced out of Charlotte and the planned Franklin Urban Sports and Entertainment District, a public-private revitalization effort west of downtown that includes an entertainment complex.
- In South Carolina, Fort Mill Mayor Guynn Savage is being challenged by Bret McNabb, who is known for opposing a zoning decision to allow a gas station near an elementary school. Meanwhile the mayor of nearby York, Eddie Lee, is facing a challenge from council member Mike Fuesser.
- In addition to the cable and internet referendum along with Davidson, Mooresville voters have a contested mayoral election. Mayor Miles Atkins is being challenged by Angela Carruba Stutts. Both survived a primary in October to advance to the general election, but Stutts had a narrow — as in six votes — lead over Atkins, who's been mayor since 2011.
When And Where To Vote
Polls are open until 7:30 p.m. in North Carolina and 7 p.m. in South Carolina. If you're not sure which precinct is yours, in North Carolina, you can check at ncsbe.gov. You can also find sample ballots there and learn more about elections in general. South Carolina voter information is available at scvotes.org.