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Residents sue to stop new Wake commissioner districts

Posted April 9, 2015

An opponent of a bill to change the Wake County Board of Commissioners voting districts attends a March 31, 2015, House Elections Committee meeting.

— A group of Wake County residents and organizations has asked a federal court to declare newly drawn Board of Commissioners districts invalid.

The suit, which was filed Thursday, responds to state legislation that passed the General Assembly last week that makes several major changes in how Wake County's top leaders are chosen.

"Plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable harm from having to use racially gerrymandered election districts," says the suit, which was brought by the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association and 14 individuals, several of whom are active in Democratic politics.

The new district lines mimic a map lawmakers drew for the Wake County Board of Education two years ago, and the suit is similar to a federal lawsuit that challenged those lines. A federal district court ruled in favor of the new school board maps, but that case is on appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The lawsuit contends that the new District 4 on Raleigh's east side was drawn to pull in as many black voters as possible and that the population in the districts would vary by as much as 9.8 percent, defeating the concept of equal representation.

Under the old rules for choosing county commissioners, the seven members of the board each had to live in geographic districts but were voted on countywide. The new plan would redraw those districts and add two new regional districts, one concentrated in Raleigh's urban core and the other taking in suburban and rural areas of the county. Instead of having a say on all members of the board, voters would select just the two members who represent their local and regional districts.

Backers of the new plan, most notably Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, who is named as one of the defendants, say it will provide more local representation and make sure the county's rural areas have a say in county politics. During legislative debates, opponents of the plan pointed out that it favored Republicans and was presented only after Democrats swept all seven seats on the Board of Commissioners.

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  • Quin Satterthwaite Apr 10, 2015
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    This is nonsense about "have no right to have their voices heard" and "let us vote".

    People are going to vote for representatives for their district- just like congress, just like state government, just like the school board just like city council.

    Having local districts is a good thing- it makes the Representatives more responsive to the region that are representing. Having a ton of at large seats is what is weird.

    Can you imagine if Congress was composed of the 435 top voter getters across the entire nation? How responsive are they going to be?

  • Ashley Moore Apr 10, 2015
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    You all do realize that every time there is a new majority party lines are redrawn, right? It is not like this is the first time.

  • George Herbert Apr 10, 2015
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    The fact that Republicans like to change the rules when things don't go their way is not going over well with those of us who are unaffiliated. So much for "Project Listen," which was the NCGOP's strategy to appeal to voters in N.C.'s two largest counties. Apparently the GOP legislators don't mind tarnishing the GOP brand in Wake County.

  • Teresa Engel Apr 10, 2015
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    I feel the same way about the fracking legislation. Most of the GA that voted in favor of fast tracking fracking, and making the ridiculous rules that favor the energy companies over the citizens, have no stake in this. Yet, they were able to vote against my interests anyway.
    I hope the citizens of Wake County are successful in their fight against this gross overreach by the party of less government..NOT!

  • Jay Tanenbaum Apr 10, 2015
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    So, you are saying that even supposedly "Democrat activists" that live in Wake County have no right to have their voices heard? Of course typical talking point with ZERO proof to back that up.

    If this law by Barefoot was such a great idea, let us residents of Wake County vote on the plan.

  • Teresa Engel Apr 9, 2015
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    Good for them! I hope they win!

  • Quin Satterthwaite Apr 9, 2015
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    lol "Residents"

    They are Democrat activists.

  • Mark Hubbard Apr 9, 2015
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    To a Republican it's "the will of the people" when you're winning, and it's "tyranny of the majority" when you're losing. This bill should be ripped to shreds.

  • Nate Tryon Apr 9, 2015
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    I don't think you got it straight.

  • Rick Grooms Apr 9, 2015
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    So let me get this straight - it's okay to have

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