It is a shame that voters in the city of Beaufort will not get a chance this November to decide on a major change to its municipal governance.
Voters should have been asked to resolve the question of whether City Council members continue to be elected at-large, or switch to elections by district.
Now that question will linger, and that is unhealthy. It needs a resolution.
The concept has been discussed before, and the current push by the Burton-Dale-Beaufort NAACP branch has been on the public agenda since at least last November. Yet, City Council failed to adopt a resolution in time to be placed before voters in the November general election.
The NAACP's goal is an increased likelihood of the election of an African-American candidate in a city that is 30 percent black. The council has not had a black member since 1993.
The issue also involves a change in geographic representation on City Council.
And it could involve increasing the council from five members to seven, with the mayor continuing to be elected at-large.
Neither the city nor the NAACP pushed for the referendum full-bore, which is a shame.
The city's initial reaction was that it could not be done. A black-majority district could not be carved within the city, it was said. Too much time was wasted on that line of thought, which was easily shot down.
The NAACP also needed to do more. It presented proposed districting maps, but it should have come out of the chute pushing specific referendum language and promoting a sense of urgency that was lacking on all sides until the final week of deliberations.
Meanwhile, the NAACP took a big hit to its logic and credibility when no African-American signed up to run for the two City Council seats that will be filled in the Nov. 4 election. If nothing else, it would have been smart to have black candidates on the ballot to increase black voter turnout for the anticipated districting referendum.
Now the only options for the referendum are a special election, or waiting two years until the next general election.
A special election is not a good option. It is costly, and the turnout can be miserably low. That is not good governance.
Too much homework was done in recent months for this debate to start from scratch prior to a future vote. The question is really very simple. It was certainly simple enough to be on the November ballot.
Next time, the city and the NAACP must work harder and smarter to get the question resolved.