Bill that would change voting in Gastonia frustrates council members

Members of the Gastonia City Council say they’re frustrated over a bill that would change the voting process in Gastonia for the first time in 60 years.

A bill in the legislature would require voters to only select city council members from the area where they live, instead of voting for citywide seats.

Robert King, the current chairperson of the Gaston County Republican Party, told Channel 9′s Ken Lemon he favors the bill, which was introduced by Republican state Rep. Donnie Loftis.

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“I’d say it’s good policy,” King said.

King was a city council candidate in 2021, and he was one of three people vying for the First Ward seat, which represents east Gastonia. He believes he could have won if people living in the First Ward were required to vote for candidates living in the First Ward.

“There are a lot of folks who feel disenfranchised by the representative residing in their ward not being the person that gets elected,” King said.

Democrats who favor the council believe the bill introduced will dilute the Democratic vote.

“I don’t really see a value because there is representation on the council as is,” said David Brown with the Gaston Democratic Party.

Jim Gallagher is one of the two Republicans on the Gastonia City Council, but both of them oppose the proposed bill.

“By doing this, it will divide us,” Gallagher told Lemon.

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Gallagher joined council members who said they weren’t informed before the bill was introduced, and they want it removed.

Gallagher said that right now, the city council has to consider the needs of all residents, but separating voters by wards will change that.

“Let’s create a clique over here and try to stop the funding for them and make sure we get funding over here,” he hypothesized.

The city council has asked for a meeting with their legislative delegation, hoping the lawmakers can block the voting bill. It has already passed in the state House.

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