Senate gives tentative approval to new maps for Wake commissioners

Posted March 11, 2015

— The state Senate has voted 31-16 to tentatively approve a plan to redraw Wake County's Board of Commissioners district boundaries over the objections of Democrats.

Senators are scheduled to vote a final time Thursday before sending the measure to the state House.

Under the current election plan, commissioners must live in one of seven geographic districts but are voted on countywide. The new system, drawn to mirror newly enacted school board districts, adds two super-districts to the board – one representing the county's urban core and the other outlying areas – and says that commissioners would seek the votes only of those in their individual district.

Backers of the bill, led by Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, have argued that the current system requires politicians to cater to too many people and favors the county's urban areas.

"The deck is stacked against Wake's small towns and rural communities," Barefoot said.

Matt Calabria, one of Wake County's sitting commissioners, won the countywide vote but garnered fewer votes than his opponents within his geographic district, Barefoot noted.

Opponents of the bill, who point out Republicans brought the measure forward only after Democrats swept the seats on the Board of Commissioners last fall, asked that Wake County voters be given the right to accept or reject the Barefoot plan.

"Let the people of Wake County vote," Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, said.

Republicans used a procedural motion to effectively kill Stein's proposed amendment.

During the past 20 years, Republicans have controlled the Board of Commissioners for 12 years, Democrats have controlled the board for eight. That, Stein said, shows the current system gives voters the ability to counteract commissioners who veer too far from the political middle.

"These are purely partisan districts," he said of Barefoot's proposal.

The new districts are drawn to give Republicans an edge in five districts, while Democrats would have an edge in four.

Proponents said that it wasn't partisanship but a rural-urban divide that is driving the push for new districts.

"What we're really talking about with this is rural versus city," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. "As cities grow, they take over everything."

Sen Dan Blue, D-Wake, said he objected to the Barefoot plan because it has the potential to inject race as consideration in drawing the districts.

"I ask you to give us a chance to come up with a map that makes sense for this county," Blue said.


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  • George Herbert Mar 12, 2015
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    Apparently the way we elected county commissioners was fine with Chad Barefoot when Republicans held a majority. Barefoot now believes that Republicans no longer have a fair chance to get elected without his help. He's probably right.

  • Larry Matthews Mar 12, 2015
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    Wake County is 10% of the population of the entire state of North Carolina yet one fairly new, very young firebrand seeks to dictate to the county how they need to elect their county commissioners.

    The school board and proposed commissioner board takes minority voters and groups them together in gerrymandered districts so that Republicans can elect commissioners in Dist. 1,2,6, and 7 and they expect in the outside ring around the county.

    State Senator Barefoot spent $1.2 million on his 2014 election in a district of less than 200,000. You have to ask yourself...what does he expect in return. Who put him up to this? As he said himself on tape..."I'm just the sponsor" as he tried to reflect some of the blame.

    Wake County deserves better than this.

  • Jay Tanenbaum Mar 11, 2015
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    I have yet to hear any Republicans like this. C'mon, defend your party for giving us more government and usurping local control.

  • Tomma Hargraves Mar 11, 2015
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    This is so wrong!

  • John Heitzenrater Mar 11, 2015
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    "The deck is stacked against Wake's small towns and rural communities," Barefoot said.

    So one vote from a rural citizen should count more than one vote from an urban citizen? The deck is stacked because we live in a democracy where votes are equal and the population density is much higher in cities. It's very telling that they won't let the very people this affects even vote on it. They know they don't want it, and they don't care. Vote these people out if you care at all about having any local control over your cities and towns. Big government is here and wants to control everything in NC.

  • Melanie Lane Mar 11, 2015
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    If you support this and are crowing, just remember the next time that you and your republican politicians are yelling about how the feds do not have any business in state affairs that you really mean democrats have no business in republican affairs because when it comes to republicans redrawing lines that were just drawn by republicans because they didn't give them the result of more republican seats. You can think whatever you want, just be honest about it.. the country needs it. All this hyperbole and noise that has no basis in what's really going on is destroying america.