Voters in York County soon could get another chance to decide how long their elected officials hold office.
County leaders moved closer this week to holding a referendum on whether to double the length of their terms, from two to four years. Of South Carolina's 46 counties, only two -- York and Edgefield -- elect county representatives every two years. All the other counties' leaders serve four-year terms.
"This is about stability," said Councilman Paul Lindemann of Fort Mill, a chief proponent of the switch. "Ultimately, it's up to the people, and I think the people will speak."
The proposal passed Monday night by a 4-3 vote, with Councilmen Joe Cox and Curwood Chappell offering the most spirited opposition. Newcomer Chad Williams also voted no.
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"You are intelligent enough to keep me here or take me out," Chappell said to voters. "What's the problem with confronting our constituency every two years? What are we afraid of?"
Chappell vowed to oppose those who want to lengthen terms, saying, "I'm going to hit you with everything God Almighty has given me."
Cox also favors leaving the terms in place. "I just think two years is enough," he said. "If it's good enough for John Spratt, it's good enough for me."
Two-year terms are a holdover from the days when York County was governed by a board of directors. Three times in the 1980s, voters rejected efforts to lengthen the terms. Now, they might get a fourth chance to decide. The referendum would be held in the 2010 general election.
Advocates say longer terms give council members time to understand complicated issues without having to worry about campaigning so quickly. In recent years, Anderson, Greenwood and Orangeburg counties have switched from two- to four-year posts.
"It takes you two years to learn," said Councilman Tom Smith of Lake Wylie, who added that he didn't feel strongly either way. "If you say you've got it down pat, you're kidding yourself. The truth always comes out in the end anyhow."
Under state law, council members can put a question on the ballot, but voters must approve extending terms. One more approval is needed at the council's March 2 meeting.
Four-year terms: A closer look
How many counties in South Carolina use two-year terms?
Two. Of the state's 46 counties, only York and Edgefield elect their county leaders every two years. The remaining counties' officials serve four-year terms. Under state law, county leaders serve either two- or four-year terms.
Who can change the terms?
Council members can place the item on the ballot, but voters must approve any changes to their county leaders' terms. In York County, voters have rejected council members' attempts to extend terms three times.