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Wake commissioners redistricting bill headed to House

Posted March 12, 2015

Breaking down Wake redistricting proposal

— A bill passed by the state Senate to redraw Wake County's Board of Commissioners districts will likely get a warm reception in the House.

Senators passed the measure on a 32-16 party-line vote Thursday morning, with Republicans backing the bill by Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, and Democrats opposed.

The bill, which would redraw the lines for the existing county commissioner seats and add two super-regional districts to the board, now heads to the House, where senior Republicans on the Wake County delegation appear to be in favor, or at least not opposed, to it.

"We'll take a look at it when it comes over," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, the House's senior budget chairman.

Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, the speaker pro tem of the chamber, is an enthusiastic backer of the bill.

The new commissioner districts were drawn to match newly formed county Board of Education lines. One federal judge has already rejected a challenge to the new school board voting districts, but plaintiffs have asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the lines.

"If you do any other set of districts at all, someone is going to have the bright idea to sue," Stam said.

Sticking with the Senate bill, he said, would protect the redistricting from legal challenges.

Democratic opponents charge that Republicans brought the redistricting plan forward only after Democrats won all seven seats on the Board of Commissioners in November. Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, charged again on the Senate floor Wednesday that the redraw was a partisan attempt to get more Republicans on the county board.

Stam said it was Republicans who fell victim to partisanship in 2014.

A key feature of the current plan is that the seven commissioners must live in and represent geographic districts, but they have to run at large across a county with 1 million residents. This, Stam argues, leaves incumbents and newcomers alike vulnerable to political winds not of their own making.

For example, candidates, parties and outside groups spent millions on local legislative races in 2014. While those ads didn't mention county commissioners specifically, "The people in the rest of the county got all of that advertising about how Republicans are bad," he said.

"They (Republican commissioner candidates) were the collateral damage of the attempt to get three or four legislators," he continued.

Smaller districts, he said, would allow candidates to run more locally focused campaigns that push back against those broadcast messages.

Stam said there isn't yet a scheduled for taking up the redistricting bill, but he expected to see it move in the next month.

17 Comments

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  • Jay Tanenbaum Mar 13, 2015
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    I still don't see any really defending this plan other than they want to vote for representatives that are closer to their home. I don't see this as an issue. But it should be up to the voters of Wake County to decide not the folks in the GA. Were are you defenders?

  • Mike Berthold Mar 13, 2015
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    I agree that they are chartered by the state but their powers over them should be limited to state level activities and not local issues. If the issue is limited to that chartered area, the constituents of that area should have the say and not people from other areas.

  • Arch Maker Mar 13, 2015
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    Counties and cities are essentially chartered organizations by the state - so essentially they exist only through the permission of the state (which is not the case in the relationship between state and federal government). So essentially, yes, the state can legally enforce what they are doing.

    Should they? Only if they want to be hypocrites. It is telling that Wake County and Greensboro were the places where Republicans lost really bad in the last election. To "fix" this through legislation and not ideas is bad form and low.

  • Teresa Engel Mar 13, 2015
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    They have, in effect, taken it to the "town level". A key point not being addressed here is that they are also nosing into the City of Greensboro's districting. So, what town is next?

  • Mike Berthold Mar 13, 2015
    user avatar

    Has anyone looked into whether or not the county HAS to accept this? Again, the state forcing a policy onto a single local government entity? To me it just screams of misuse of power by the state.

  • Mike Berthold Mar 13, 2015
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    So it should be up to the county to determine the districts, not the state. What is to stop the state from taking this down to the town level and dictating how city/town council seats are divided or how school districts are determined. If it is a county issue it should be handled at a county level.

  • Gary Greene Mar 13, 2015
    user avatar

    The people who can vote for my City Council representative (not including at large seat), my school board (will be same with an at large seat ), my state house representative, my state senator, my congressional representative, etc are limited to those who live in my district. Would I like someone who lives in New Jersey voting to see who would be my governor?

    If this passes or not, I don't care because I live in Raleigh and it probably will not impact me but I can see the concerns of those who live in the smaller communities. It would appear to me that the only real gripe one can have is the district maps. In my limited history, I've never seen any voting maps that were prepared that were acceptable to a large percentage of the voters.

  • Jack Jones Mar 12, 2015
    user avatar

    Republicans cannot win fair elections, so they cheat.

  • George Herbert Mar 12, 2015
    user avatar

    Chad Barefoot obviously doesn't like fair elections. His plan packs Democratic-leaning voters into two of the districts so that Republicans can win the other five. One regional seat would be for a Democrat (urban core of the county) and one for a Republican (rural fringe of the county).

    Apparently Barefoot is admitting that Republicans have shifted so far to the right that they're unelectable in a fair election in Wake County. That they held the majority of the county commissioner seats until recently isn't proof enough that the current system gives them a fair chance.

  • John Heitzenrater Mar 12, 2015
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    The people of Wake county introduced it? No, sir. Chad Barefoot submitted it, and his district covers way more of Franklin county than Wake. Talk about having your facts wrong. Why should your representative, who represents a tiny minority of the population of Wake county, get to speak for the majority?

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