County Elections

County Commissioners

County Commissioners are elected in November of each even-numbered year. Commissioners are elected to either 2-year or 4-year terms. This varies by county.

County elections are held in conjunction with state and federal elections. To be eligible to serve as a county commissioner, you must reside in the county you wish to serve, be a registered voter and be at least 21 years of age. There are no other formal requirements, and there are no limitations on how many terms a commissioner can serve.

The typical county board in North Carolina consists of 5 or 7 commissioners, although some counties have as many as 9. Boards generally meet at least 2 times per month at the county courthouse or administrative building.

  • County Elections Methods

    County Commissioners are elected either at large, by a district, a combination of the 2, or via a limited voting system. The below table shows the election method used by each county as well as the length of their terms of office.

    CountyNo. of Comms.Election MethodCombined DescriptionTerms of OfficeFootnotes
    Alamance5al4S
    Alexander5al4S
    Alleghany5al4S
    Anson7d4S
    Ashe5al2/4S
    Avery5al2/4S
    Beaufort7l4S1
    Bertie5dal4S
    Bladen9m6d; 3al; l4S2
    Brunswick5dal4S
    Buncombe7cda6d; 1al4S3
    Burke5al4S
    Cabarrus5al4S
    Caldwell5al4S
    Camden5dal3d; 2al4S
    Carteret7dal4S
    Caswell7cda5d, 2al4S
    Catawba5al4S
    Chatham5dal4S
    Cherokee5dal4S
    Chowan7cda6d; 1al4S4
    Clay5al4S
    Cleveland5al4S
    Columbus7d4S
    Craven7d45
    Cumberland7cda5d; 2al4S
    Currituck7cdal2al; 5dal4S
    Dare7dal4S
    Davidson7al4S
    Davie5al4S
    Duplin5d4S
    Durham5al4
    Edgecombe7d4S
    Forsyth7cda1al; 6d4S6
    Franklin7cda2al; 5d4S
    Gaston7dal4S
    Gates5dal4S
    Graham5al2/4S7
    Granville7d4S
    Greene5al4S
    Guilford9cda8d; 1al4S
    Halifax6cda3d; 3al4S
    Harnett5d4S
    Haywood5al4S
    Henderson5dal4S
    Hertford5dal4S
    Hoke5al4S
    Hyde5dal4S
    Iredell5al2/4S
    Jackson5dal4S3
    Johnston7dal4S
    Jones7d412
    Lee7cda3al; 4d4S
    Lenoir7cda2al; 5d4S
    Lincoln5al4S
    Macon5dal4S
    Madison5al4S
    Martin5l4S8
    McDowell5al4S
    Mecklenburg9cda3al; 6d2
    Mitchell5al2/4S
    Montgomery5cda2al; 3d4S
    Moore5dal4S
    Nash7d4S
    New Hanover5al4S
    Northampton5al4S
    Onslow7al4S11
    Orange7cdal2al; 5d4S
    Pamlico7cdal2al; 5d4S
    Pasquotank7cdal3al; 4d4S
    Pender5dal4S
    Perquimans6l4S1
    Person5al4S
    Pitt9d4S9
    Polk5al2/4S
    Randolph5dal4S
    Richmond7al4S
    Robeson8d4S
    Rockingham5al4S
    Rowan5al4S
    Rutherford5dal4S
    Sampson5d4S
    Scotland7dal4S
    Stanly7al4S
    Stokes5al4S
    Surry5dall4S
    Swain5al4S3
    Transylvania5al4S
    Tyrrell5l/al4S10
    Union5al4S
    Vance7d4S
    Wake7dal4S
    Warren5dal4S
    Washington5cda4d; 1al4S
    Watauga5dal2/4S
    Wayne7cda1al; 6d4
    Wilkes5al4S
    Wilson7d4
    Yadkin5al2/4S
    Yancey5al2/4S

    TABLE ABBREVIATIONS

    Election method and descriptions:
    al = All commissioners nominated and elected at large (pure at large).
    d = All commissioners nominated and elected by district (pure district).
    dal = Residence in district required, but nominated and elected at-large.
    l = Limited voting plan.
    cda = Combination of pure district and pure at large seats.
    cdal = Combination of pure at large seats with some seats requiring residency in districts, but still nominated/elected at large.
    S = If S appears beside length of term, means not all seats are up for election in the same year.

    TABLE FOOTNOTES

    1. Limited voting system. Candidates file as a group for open seats and voters may vote for only 1 candidate. Both primary and general election results are determined by plurality.
    2. Six members elected to numbered seats from 3 2-member districts; 3 at-large members elected concurrently. Primary result is determined by plurality, with each voter limited to 1 vote.
    3. Chair elected separately.
    4. Six members elected to numbered seats from 3 2-member districts for staggered 4-year terms; at-large member elected for 4-year term.
    5. Two members nominated and elected by district; 5 nominated by district and elected at large across the 5 remaining districts.
    6. One 2-member district; 1 4-member district; 1 at-large member.
    7. Member elected with highest number of votes serves as chair.
    8. Limited voting plan. One 2-member district; 1 3-member district. Voters in 2 member district may vote for only 1 candidate. Voters in 3-member district may vote for 2 candidates.
    9. Six single-member districts; 3 consolidated districts formed by combining single-member districts.
    10. Commissioners are elected at-large with a limited voting plan. Primaries are conducted on a partisan basis, with the top vote-getters in each party moving to the general election.
    11. Voters in Onslow County approved referendum in 2016 to add two Board seats, to be elected in 2018, increasing the Board from 5 to 7 members.
    12. Effective in 2018, the Jones County board increased from 5 to 7 members, elected by district.

  • County Election Results

    Data on county-by-county elections demographics (race, gender and political party) for each county’s Board of Commissioners is compiled bi-annually after each election. The data reflects the results immediately after the election and does not take into account any changes that may have occurred between elections due to deaths or resignations of sitting commissioners.

  • Makeup of County Boards by Decade

    Historical data on the election results and demographics of County Commissioners have been recorded from 1974 to the most recent election.

    2020s     
    Total Seats                                     587
    Democrats231
    Republicans349
    Unaffiliated/Other Parties7
    New Commissioners105
    Vacancies5
    Females128
    African Americans120
    American Indians5
    Asian2
    Latino1
    Democratic Boards37
    Republican Boards61
    2010s     
    20182016201420122010
    Total seats587583583580578
    Democrats242256275271295
    Republicans334322304303277
    Independents/Other Parties75366
    New commissioners97107131121145
    Vacancies4100
    Females9891939393
    African-Americans116109111112108
    American Indians55677
    Asian00000
    Hispanic00000
    Democratic boards4145474550
    Republican boards5655525349
    2000s     
    20082006200420022000
    Total seats576572570568566
    Democrats350338316322337
    Republicans221231254245227
    Independents51012
    New commissioners122130119140142
    Vacancies02000
    Females9688828882
    African-Americans1129710510487
    Native Americans77
    Indian01
    Hispanic01
    Democratic boards6460565762
    Republican boards3640444338
    1990s     
    19981996199419921990
    Total seats566566560551538
    Democrats342326343390367
    Republicans221238217161171
    Independents32000
    New commissioners153140160166158
    Vacancies20210
    Females8375677464
    African-Americans9493898879
    Democratic boards6159587368
    Republican boards3841422732
    1980s     
    19881986198419821980
    Total seats521501492494492
    Democrats364360392431398
    Republicans1571411006394
    New commissioners130147125148101
    Vacancies21200
    Females5849454230
    African-Americans6242353521
    Democratic boards6769778980
    Republican boards3331231120
    Three members89101011
    Five members7580838180
    Six members12244
    Seven members149555
    Nine members20000
    Turnover of all seats25%29.50%25.40%29.90%20.60%
    Turnover of available seats51.20%49.50%55.30%51.80%40.70%
    1970s     
    19781976197419721970
    Total seats493484477
    Democrats428437396
    Republicans654680
    New commissioners154143157
    Vacancies010
    Females292717
    African-Americans181413
    Democratic boards858986
    Republican boards151114
    Three members111417
    Five members797976
    Six members523
    Seven members554
    Turnover of all seats31.20%29.60%32.90%

    These results reflect the results immediately after the election and do not take into account any changes that may have occurred between elections due to, for example: deaths; resignations of sitting commissioners; or subsequent appointments.

Local Sales Tax Referenda

In 2007 legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly gave counties a local-option, quarter-cent sales tax. The sales tax (G.S. 105-535) must be approved by voters in a referendum before it can be adopted by a county. The NCACC compiles information on the results of these referendum and provides a FAQ on the local option sales tax and a sample model resolution.

Counties With Upcoming Sales Tax Referenda

Bladen County: Article 46 — November 2022 election

Cleveland County: Article 46 — November 2022 election

Macon County: Article 46 — November 2022 election

New Hanover County: Article 43 (quarter-cent) — November 2022 election

Wayne County: Article 46 — November 2022 election

  •  Counties Levying Article 43, Article 46, or Both

    2022 quarter-cent sales tax referendum

    CountyDate on BallotResult
    Alleghany2022-5-18Successful
    Guilford2022-5-18 Unsuccessful

    2020 quarter-cent sales tax referendum

    CountyDate on BallotResult
    Alamance2020-03-01Unsuccessful
    Alleghany2020-11-01Unsuccessful
    Bertie2020-03-01Successful
    Carteret2020-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Chatham2020-03-01Successful
    Chowan2020-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Forsyth2020-03-01 Successful
    Guilford2020-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Madison2020-03-01 Successful
    Stokes2020-03-01 Unsuccessful
    Washington2020-03-01 Unsuccessful
    Wayne2020-03-01 Unsuccessful
    Yadkin2020-11-01 Unsuccessful

    2019 quarter-cent sales tax referendum

    CountyDate on BallotResult
    Cleveland2019-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Mecklenburg2019-11-01 Unsuccessful

    2018 quarter-cent sales tax referendum

    CountyDate on BallotResult
    Alamance2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Alleghany2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Avery2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Bertie2018-05-01 Unsuccessful
    Bertie2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Bladen2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Caldwell2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Caswell2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Clay2018-05-01 Successful
    Columbus2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Davie2018-11-01Unsuccessful
    Forsyth2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Gaston2018-05-01 Successful
    Graham2018-11-01 Successful
    Iredell2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Jones2018-05-01 Successful
    Lenoir2018-05-01 Unsuccessful
    Lenoir2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Lincoln2018-05-01 Successful
    Madison2018-11-01Unsuccessful
    McDowell2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Moore2018-11-01Successful
    Pasquotank2018-05-01Successful
    Person2018-05-01Unsuccessful
    Rockingham2018-05-01 Successful
    Rutherford2018-05-01 Successful
    Scotland2018-11-01 Unsuccessful
    Stanly2018-11-01 Successful
    Swain2018-11-01 Successful
    Washington2018-05-01 Unsuccessful
    Watauga2018-05-01 Unsuccessful
    Wayne2018-11-01 Unsuccessful