Local Politics

Return to old Wake voting maps means new candidate filing period

Posted August 10, 2016 7:36 p.m. EDT

— Ballots were supposed to be finalized Wednesday to meet printing and mailing deadlines for military members and other absentee voters overseas. Instead, Wake County will open yet another candidate filing period on Thursday.

The new filing period for people seeking a seat on the school board was needed after federal courts declared voting districts for the board to be unconstitutional and ordered the county to use district maps drawn in 2011 for the November election.

In 2013, after Democrats swept the school board races, Republican state lawmakers redrew the districts on the board to be more favorable to GOP candidates and created two regional districts – one representing the urban core of the county and the other the suburban and rural outer ring.

Two years later, after Democrats swept the Wake County Board of Commissioners seats, Republican lawmakers used the same map to reconfigure those districts.

Some voters and groups challenged the new maps, and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that population variations in the regional districts violate the one-person, one-vote guarantees in the U.S. and state constitutions.

Reverting to the maps drawn by the two boards after the 2010 census means that the regional districts are out, and the seven single-member districts return to nine single-member districts.

The filing period will open at noon Thursday and run through noon Aug. 17.

Wake County elections director Gary Sims said the changes create a tight timeline for his staff, but he's happy to have clear direction from the court on what to do.

"I'm really happy to be in the place we are right now because now we can get back to the business of getting ready for this election," Sims said. "Our timeline changed a little bit, and we're going to keep doing what we're doing. We're going to work really hard to be ready for this November election."

The Board of Commissioner races were already using the numbered districts in the 2011 plan, so those candidates will not have to refile. But the primary held in March for one of the regional districts is now null and void. Also, although commissioner candidates still must live in their districts, they will return to being voted on county-wide, not just by district residents.