District Representation for BOCC

Today's Herald reported that a group from rural Orange County led by farmer Bob Strayhorn and state Rep. Bill Faison is pushing the BOCC to consider district representation. They point out that a large segment of Orange County voters feels that they are not represented under the current system. A petition to that effect with 1252 signatures was delivered to the commissioners.

This has been raised before but the commissioners were unwilling to act. My own thinking is that we should provide voting and representation systems that allow maximum representation of points of view while maintaining one-person/one-vote and effective government.

Cumulative voting could be another option to attain the same ends. Cumulative voting would allow a variety of constituencies to identify themselves and seek better representation. But there are problems with it.

Preference voting which is an arguably better process than cumulative is another possibility.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that a BOCC elected primarily by the urban area voters will make a change unless pro-democracy forces in Chapel Hill in Carrboro also take up the cause.

Issues: 

Total votes: 261

Comments

Good point Mark P. Although I wonder whether it is a bad thing that someone lives in Chapel Hill Township and yet is popular in the rest of the County.

Doesn't Moses's success in Districts B and C suggest that the "no representation for rural orange" problem is not that bad? Rural Orange County saved Moses's campaign. Sure he doesn't represent Paul Newton's views, but he must be doing something that rural voters like. And let's be clear all three of Faison's proposed districts would be about 53% Democratic - yes all of them.

All that said, I think we need to change the BOCC. Having 7 members would be a good start.

If Moses is truely loved in the county, would it not behoove him to run as the at-large candidate? He did just recently move from the fringe of Orange county (Old Lystra Road) to Meadowmont (or as my Carrboro friends call it "Meadowmonster"). According to Faison's plan, this would answer the question of popularity. On the other hand, 5 beauracrats are always better than 7 beauracrats.
Your point is taken clearly, Mark. Rep. Faison is defending the tax-nexed folks in your "municiperialist" expansion plan with another bill that will allow them to vote in upcoming municipal elections. I guess you've got as many reasons as Moses Carey to fight Faison's proposals.
Is this not further proof that district representation's time has come? The profits of the "good ole boys" are in jeapordy and they intend to protect them at all costs. Costs to the community and schools. Annex and tax without representation.
KUDOS to Bill Faison! The most Libertarian reprentative in the NC House.

Mark C.,

On the one hand, I see your point.

On the other hand, don't you think that a different set of candidates would have run if they knew they weren't having to compete countywide? I believe it would have been a completely different election.

I was more trying to speculate on why there was such an acrid response.

Here you have certain commissioners that are fine being the meddlers, but are raging being the meddlees. Turnabout is fair play.

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Will S., I see more commissioners as a good solution to the back-room brokering that many agree are the norm in Orange County. I'm not sure how staying at 5 is going to change the norm. We need 4 or 5 to get a majority, not 3.

M

Mark asks:

My answer, perhaps:
1) If the candidate is a very "liberal" resident of Districts B or C; or
2) if the candidate is a resident of District A but can not win in that district but only countywide

oops, forgot to paste in Mark's question, which was:
why would anyone run for the at-large seat

oh, and there is also a third reason, too much competition within one's own district

Gerry said: "too much competition within one's own district"

This is the main reason that I want 2 at large. If someone gerrymanders or if there is too much competition, then I would like to see one at large in each 2 year election cycle.

Since 1977, the General Assembly has by local bill changed the following counties electoral system for the board of commissioners:

1) 1977 Camden, expanded from 3 to 5, three districts, two at-large, subject to referendum

2) 1977 Hyde staggered terms

3) 1977 Brunswick increased board size

4) 1977 Richmond

5) 1979 Caldwell staggered terms

6) 1979 Richmond reduced board size

7) 1981 Randolph districts*

8) 1981 Hyde expanded board from 3 to 5 members

9) 1983 Brunswick

10) 1983 Buncombe

11) 1983 New Hanover, expand from 5 to 7 seats, establish districts, all subject to referendum

12) 1983 Polk expand board from 3 to 5 members

13) 1987 Alexander expand board from 3 to 5 members

14) 1987 Lincoln staggered terms

15) 1987 Anson, expand from 5 to 7 members, district election

16) 1987 Pasquotank

17) 1987 Pitt

18) 1987 Bladen expand from 5 to 9 members, disticts and at-large

19) 1987 Pamlico, comply with court order

20) 1987 Craven

21) 1987 Duplin, comply with court order

22) 1987 Caswell, comply with court order

23) 1989 Richmond, comply with court order

24) 1989 Perquimans, expand from 5 to 7 members

25) 1989 Chowan expand board, provide districts

26) 1989 Lee

27) 1989 Forsyth, expand board from 5 to 7 members, one member at-large, one from 2-member district, 1 from 4-member district (sound familiar?)

28) 1989 Lenoir comply with court order

29) 1989 Granville, comply with court order

30) 1989 Sampson, comply with court order

31) 1991 Guilford, expand board to 11 members, provide district system*

32) 1991 Richmond, comply with court order

33) 1991 Brunswick shorten terms from 4 to 2 years subject to referendum

34) 1993 Alleghany expand from 3 to 5 members

35) 1993 Perquimans

36) 1993 Carteret, expand from5 to 7 members, change districts

37) 1995 Ashe terms changed

38) 1995 Moore districts

39) 1995 Edgecombe, expand from 5 to 7 members, provide districts

40) 1997 Stanly staggered terms

41) 1997 Brunswick change tersm from 2 to 4 years, subject to referendum

42) 1997 Beaufort allow county residents same right to petition for change in form of government as city residents have, subject to referendum

43) 2001 Gates establish residency districts

44) 2002 Wayne staggered terms

45) 2003 Wilkes staggered terms

46) 2004 Montgomery comply with court order

* Randolph and Guilford changes adopted over objections of county commissioners, not subject to referendum, county commissioners called referendum, voters chose legislatively enacted plan over commissioners plan

Since basketball season is closing out tonight, here's a pertinent question to both b-ball & fair representation: Why are there so many Duke fans in the rural areas of Orange County? Do you suppose it is because a) New Jersey is their favorite state? b) Coach K reminds them of family? or c) ?

c) they hate Chapel Hill?

Good point, Jim. Seems like Carrboro's interests might be different than Chapel Hill's on some issues. So might the interests of Chapel Hill Township residents who are not in either town. Witness recent complaints from the annexation area that no one represents them.

So what about six different single member districts plus one at large? Or of course you could come up with many other variations.

Why, exactly, do we need any "at large" seats ? Why not just have seven districts county-wide?

I think dividing the County into districts for both electing and serving on the BOCC has both its good and bad points but on balance is a good idea. However, I believe the current plan is short sighted because it was drawn-up for the benefit of a single constituency. I hope we can find a better plan that takes the entire County into consideration. For example if single districts are such a good idea, why are four BOCC members elected at large from the Chapel Hill Township?

Mark Peters:
BY your logic that 7 is better than 5 commisioners, is not then 9 better than 7? Is not 13 better than 9? Keep in mind that tax payer dollars fund the salaries of these commissioners. Now, a bigger commission is a better representation, but, when we are burdened by the one party system that spends more time and resources trying to get re elected( like the Chapelboro city gov'ts) as opposed to actually serving the community, then less is better.
I urge you to watch the city council meetings on public access and observe the following....What is already in agreement is rubberstamped by the council, and what has not been already approved in the "back room" is ignored and (note the complete lack of interest by the council members, i.e. shuffling papers, looking away from the speaker, twiddling thumbs and the making of "faces" to unseen, off camera members of the audience) and you will see clearly that having more of these folks on the dole is detrimental.
True representation, even if it is one dissenting vote, is better that adding additional politboro yes men. Of special interest is the knee jerk reaction of sitting members to any outside opposition. Note: Moses Carey and Mark Chilton.

Will, I agree with your points, which is why I haven't proposed to have 11 or 13 commissioners. 7 or 9 would more evenly distribute the liason roles that are needed, and presumably lighten the workload which might reduce individual salary (to a point, say 9). I never advocated for 11 or 13, just as I would never presume that I could extrapolate your position as advocating for 3 or just 1 commissioner. There is some number that is likely more ideal than others given a number of factors.

Mark C. & Katrina - The smaller you make the districts, the more likely gerrymandering is to occur. I said earlier that it may make sense to have a CH and a Carrboro district, but 7 or 9 distinct ones invite gerrymandering. Ditto for not having at large slots for the gerrymandering victim to fall back to.

Another reason for at-large for some folks exists with the current commissioners - Moses might win an at large but would not likely win in his current district, given the analysis above. While I respect Moses in some respects, the vote analysis seems to show that he doesn't represent many of his constituents in the current proposed district (or any possible district drawn around his current residence). So I am a fan of some at large, even at the risk of enabling his re-election.

M

Cumulative voting would make drawing district lines unnecessary; people could self-select their geo-political location.

Mark P, it's nice to see someone respect the outcome of a democratic process - even if they don't like that outcome. That is the real strength of the American democratic tradition. Many emerging democracies in the world have trouble with that.

I feel the same sentiment you just expressed - but more with respect to the idea of Faison's District C. Am I going to like who gets elected under such a plan? Maybe. Do I respect rural Orange County's right to be represented? Absolutely.

Good point, Mark C. But too many folks around here don't respect that train of thought. Sure they feel that locally they did fine, but ask them to apply the same stamp to the Federal level and be prepared to duck! LOL.

IQ's might be dropping this week.

A unnamed pony tailed commissioner said in a pubic meeting last week what he thinks regarding technology. He thinks we all would be better using stone tablets instead of investing in technology.

How does this comment fit with the schools? Does it mean our children should not count on decent technology in the classrooms?

As a teacher I do not understand where he is coming from. Perhaps this week I will have my class write him a letter on stone tablet.

The latest developments on the redistricting issue:

An NC House committee killed Faison's redistricting bill with Rep. Joe Hackney using his perogative as part of the House leadership to cast a 'NO' vote - on a committe that he does not serve on. I didn't know he could do that. It sounds like he called in a favor from another House leader who came and exercised the same power. This is Hackney proving what an effective legislator he really is - even though he is one of the most liberal members of the NC House, he is also one of the most powerful members of this very conservative institution. Here's the H-S article:

http://www.heraldsun.com/orange/10-613011.html

The other interesting tidbit of late on this issue is a letter to the editor from Brian Voyce:

http://www.chapelhillnews.com/opinion/story/2462395p-8866804c.html

In which he asserts: "Moreover, Carey, a Meadowmont resident, would have won one of Faison's four proposed Chapel Hill township commissioner slots (two per election). He received a higher cast-vote percentage inside the Chapel Hill township than outside (34 percent versus 31 percent). "

I have to say that I think this thread has demonstrated fairly conclusively that Brian Voyce is factually dead wrong on almost everything he said in that part of his letter. See my April 3, 2005 post on this thread above. Moses Carey came in fourth place in Chapel Hill Township. Fourth. In rural Orange County he came in first place. That is how he got re-elected. Brian where do you get this stuff?

Mark C,

I found the article and the recent debates (at the General Assembly and at a forum hosted by the NAACP and the African American Caucus of Orange County) to be very interesting. However, I do not see (especially after reviewing your numbers above from the 2004 Primaries) where African American's would be negatively impacted by Faison's district representation plans.

It is all a moot point for the moment, but ...

While Moses Carey didn't fair too well in the Chapel Hill District, Valerie Foushee did just fine. While Valerie Foushee didn't fair too well in the Hillsborough District, Moses Carey won handily. Same thing in District C.

Because Moses Carey lives in Chapel Hill, he wouldn't be eligible to run in District's B or C. However, that wouldn't prevent another African American from running and winning in those districts by the same margins. Would it? Most certainly, an African American came in first place in the Chapel Hill District.

So where is the inequity along racial lines?

Assuming your numbers above are correct, I guess I am trying to figure out how Moses Carey's concerns with Bill Faison's District Representation plans are truly about "severely dilut[ing] and adversely affect[ing] the rights of African-Americans in Orange County" as opposed to being simply an act of personal preservation on his part.

Mark C., while the facts are true, I disagree with your conclusions. I don't think Joe Hackney's "effectiveness" is proved at all. What's been proven is that Joe will cut a deal with anybody. Wanna bet how his next vote comes down on the lottery ? He's voted for it once already. That doesn't make him very progressive, does it? I'd bet anybody who'd take the bet that Joe, and maybe Verla Insko as well, traded lottery votes for Black giving the okay to killing this bill.

And as for Moses Carey, how did he become Orange County progressive's own Terry Schiavo, to be kept alive at all costs? Didn't he determine his own fate by pushing the school merger agenda? Isn't that why he is persona non grata in Chapel Hill township ?

And the whole school merger issue is a complete boondoggle to begin with. Orange county residents don't want it. Chapelboro residents don't want it. So who does? Could it be real estate developers looking to capitalize on the cache of the Chapel Hill Carrboro school system but offer housing prices you can only get outside of Chapelboro? Imagine that...Moses Carey, shill for the go-go growth crowd.

Katrina--there are residents in Orange County and in Chapel Hill/Carrboro who do (still) believe merger should have been pursued. A consultant back in 1986 also recommended that the county lay the groundwork to pursue merger in the 1990s. I would admit though that those who oppose the idea have much louder voices.

Well, whether you like the result or not, this whole incident does underline Joe Hackney's influence in the NC House. I am sure some wheeling and dealing happened on numerous fronts, but I doubt the lottery was a factor here. I don't really think Hackney needs or needed Black's permission to kill the redistricting bill.

On another front, please don't look to me for explanations or defenses of Moses Carey. I really don't think any of this is about self-preservation for the incumbent commissioners. It's more about the fact that, on bottom, any redistricting plan is a critique of the system that brought us the current Board. Naturally the current Board feels that it is a pretty good Board. That is human nature.

Faison's redistricting bill, by the way, is undoubtedly meant to stick it in the eye of the Orange County Democratic establishment. Joe Hackney's efforts to stop Faison's bill is meant to put him in his place (my words). I don't mean to say that Faison can't or shouldn't be an effective freshman legislator, but it is clear that to me that he came to the GA with the intention of going to war with Joe Hackney. And he's going to find that going up against Rep. Hackney will not be easy.

I am sure a bunch of you are going to jump all over me for saying all of that. I really don't mean to place any value judgments on the situation at all. I am just calling it the way it looks to me.

Faison's redistricting bill, by the way, is undoubtedly meant to stick it in the eye of the Orange County Democratic establishment.

So what you mean to say is the issue is personal? If so, I agree.

There is personal bitterness on both sides of the issue and at different levels. I am not so quick, however, to place the blame on Faison. There are always two sides to every story and then there is the truth.

We all know why NC House 50 was drawn the way it was, for whom it was drawn, and by whom. We also know that Faison was not the preferred winner of Representative Hackney. Hackney had another horse in the race he wanted to win.

Could this be what initiated the brutal, bitter, personal negativity that has seemingly consumed some of our current County Commissioners and Representative Hackney?

Similarly (nothing personal towards anyone), I am just calling it the way it looks to me. Sour grapes.

Paul, you and I are watching the same movie - we just differ on who the protagonist is.

Well, Mark, I've never heard anyone talk of a grudge match between our two local legislators before. I'll have to keep an eye on the GA and see what the two of them are up to. My understanding from a people who were there is that there was support for the bill in the local government committee and it was due to be sent to the full floor before Joe Hackney and another legislator came in and killed it.

That said, I'm very dissappointed in Democrats who clearly don't value democratic principles. There should be district representation on the BOCC. My first instinct is that there should be districts within Chapel Hill township as well, but Faison's bill was a good start. Since downtown Carrboro and Meadowmont residents would probably choose different individuals to represent their interests, you could even possibly have a third party candidate elected. Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians,all on the BOCC. Now there's diversity!

Paul, you and I are watching the same movie - we just differ on who the protagonist is.

Thats right.

- Your seat is in the Southern part of the county, mine is in the Northern.
- You have representatives on the County Commission, I do not.
- Hackney and your Commissioners (including Moses Carey) want to preserve and protect the status-quo. Representative Bill Faison, my NC representative, wants a more *progressive* solution in place for the election of our County Commissioners than what we currently have. ;-)

There would be no discussion on the issue of District Representation amongst the current County Commissioners whatsoever had Jacobs won that house seat. At least now we have something more interesting to talk about! Kudos to Bill Faison for his efforts on District Representation!

Without getting into something I don't know about - i.e. Faison's personal political agenda - it's hard to argue with the fact that the county could be better represented.

Also, it's hard to argue withe fact that county sponsored efforts have concluded that the current system does not fairly represent the diversity of Orange County.

It's also hard to argue with the fact that a referendum is fundamentally as democratic as it can get and that the current commissioners don't want one.

Partisan poltics is at the heart of why fair representation doesn't ever get a fair shake from the Democratic Party commisioners (the only kind we have ever had) and it's not getting the attention it deserves in this debate.

I think Mark Chilton's analysis is right on, and pretty accurrate whether you agree with the outcome or not.

Mark Marcoplos and others say that the Commission probably could be more representative of the entire county. I agree with them about that, but if Faison was as concerned about change as he says, he could have skipped the arrogant theatrics and worked with the leaders here in the community to convince them to implement some of the long-discussed reforms.

"The leaders here in the community" (i.e. Orange County Board of Commissioners) have a reputation that preceeds them of at least 12 years. They form study group after study group, they conduct hearings, they obtain staff analysis after staff analysis, they delay, they discuss, and then they table. They receive the same or similar information time and again with no action. When Faison went to BOCC with his proposal, the answer was "The earliest we can look at it is in 2006." Considering the reputation of the BOCC regarding this topic, Faison should have waited. Right?

I don't agree with Representative Faison on all of the issues, but there is one thing I do agree with him on. He takes his marching orders from the residents of his district. His now defunct bill H913 came directly from the citizens of his Orange County district. This is a point where the BOCC has missed "the boat" time and again. District Representation isn't about the egos of a handful of politicians embroiled in a personal spat because the chosen candidate didn't win the NC House 50 race. District Representation is about giving all citizens of Orange County a seat at the table.

Even if you wish to believe the BOCC is somehow the victim, they still could have put aside their pride and been "the bigger man". For the good of all Orange County citizens, the BOCC could have seized the moment, embraced Representative Faison's initiative and worked with him. They could have lead by example. Instead, they attacked, criticized, complained, delayed, and opposed. They used their influence to kill the H913 bill because they do not have the will nor desire to change the status-quo.

Say what you will about Representative Faison, the lack of leadership displayed by some commissioners on the BOCC in this matter (both today and over the past 12 plus years) has been far worse.

The fact is that every attempt to work with local leadership has failed because they have dodged the issue in one way or another. How many times do you kick at the football while Lucy holds it for you?

Mark states : "An NC House committee killed Faison's redistricting bill with Rep. Joe Hackney using his perogative as part of the House leadership to cast a ‘NO' vote - on a committee that he does not serve on. I didn't know he could do that."

===============
Rep. Hackney serves on ALL House committees. House Rule 26(h):
(h) Four members designated by the Speaker at the time of appointments of chairs of standing committees are ex officio members of every standing committee and permanent subcommittee with the right to vote.

Thanks for the clarification, Gerry. That speaks just as strongly to my point of course: Joe Hackney is among just four of the 120 members of the NC House with this type of power.

BTW, Paul, I have to point out that I am on record as being in support of changing how our County Commission is constituted. But I don't think Faison's bill was the solution. On the other hand, I admit that I am not as outraged by the present system as you are.

Katrina, I think you are really reaching by trying to suggest that Rep. Hackney falls in the category of "Democrats who clearly don't value democratic principles." I mean I know you don't like the 5-at-large system (neither do I), but it is absurd to suggest that the system is undemocratic.

www.dictionary.com defines "democratic" as: "Of, characterized by, or advocating a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections."

I understand the arguments of many that the 5-at-large system makes it unlikely for Republicans to affect the outcome of County Commissioner elections and we don't need to rehash that, but really, there are many, many types of democracies.

Some democracies place more emphasis on majority rule and others more on ensuring minority participation in decision making. Israel for example has a system which promotes having a dozen (or more?) political parties all of whom are represented in the national Knesset. Other countries like the US have a system that encourages the existence of just two political parties. And there are many countries that fall somewhere in between. Canada has five political parties with members in the national Parliament, for example.

You might prefer one of the systems over another, or one system of electing county commissioners over another, but on bottom all of these systems (including 5-at-large) are "democratic."

In fact, there are a multiplicity of democratic methods of electing county commissioners and I think there must be about half a dozen or more different systems used in the 100 different counties in North Carolina, including numerous other counties that have a 5-at-large system. I would not be surprised if 5-at-large is the most common system of electing county commissioners in North Carolina. (True, Gerry?)

So, I think it is unfair to suggest that supporters of the present system are "Democrats who clearly don't value democratic principles." And regardless, Hackney's opposition to Faison's bill does not mean that Hackney is opposed to change. It means that he is opposed to THAT change, particularly when imposed from above.

Personally I think we should go to having seven members. I could live with having either wards or districts, but I think the wards/districts should be (as you suggested Katrina) all of equal population (ie not a pair of one member districts and a four member district as Faison had proposed).

Actually, more counties have some sort of district voting than have totally at-large voting.

Cumulative or instant-run-off voting is the most elegant solution. No district lines to draw & fight over. It adapts to changing demographics and voting groups that form around new issues. It allows for majority rule while providing for significant minority voter blocs to be represented. It addresses Moses Carey's concern over racial issues.

Also, cumulative voting was one of the recommended solutions by the 1993 committee whose findings were swept under the proverbial rug.

I would be fine with that too. And Orange County might be a good place to demostrate how it would work, but I guess I am unoptimistic about the General Assembly allowing it.

Mark,I just find it ironic that we, as democrats, have fought so hard to protect the voice and influence of the "significant" minority in the senate lately, and yet, at home, we seem to be content with bullying by the majority.

I have to take issue with one point, Mark. You, and many others, seem to assume that a Republican would automatically win a Northern Orange seat. This is a pretty conservative, and yet, Democratically controlled state. I'm sure the party could recruit the right Democrat to win in Northern Orange.

And, I'm shocked that Ruby thinks that after twelve years the BOCC is just suddenly going to take action.

Ruby wanted OP to become a political force. Maybe now is the time. Letting people vote doesn't necessarily constitute a democracy if the conditions of the vote are such that a particular power structure is always the winner. I'm NOT saying that Orange County isn't a democracy, but I think our democracy would be greatly strengthen and more representative if the minority (which appears to be Northern Orange residents) had a voice.

We've talked and talked about cumulative voting. Mark M, maybe you could draft a letter that we could all use to send to the county commissioners, Hacknet, etc. as well as to the local media in support of it?

I learned of House Rule 26(h) just recently.

How many people are on a typical House committee?

So let me get this straight, a committee can discuss a bill for hours or weeks and when it is time to vote, 4 people can stroll in and vote to kill or override the committee? Doesn't this basically defeat the purpose of a committee?

How often is this exercised? Do the 4 people usually form a bloc? Ie - do they typically vote as the Speaker wants them to vote?

Now I can see why there was such a bloody battle for the Speaker last year. This is some serious control.

What other rules are like this? Ie - what other extraordinary powers have been granted to the Speaker?

Do other states have rules like this?

"And it seems entirely possible that District C might be represented by a Republican." -My post on April 3 above.

Notice the word 'might.'

Seems like it would be hard for the BOCC not to take action this year given Moses Carey's comments in the H-S and to the General Assembly. Here's the H-s report on this from the June 1 issue:

But the 8-3 vote against the bill came shortly after the chairman of the Orange County Commissioners, Moses Carey, promised legislators that his board would "make a decision on this issue this year." Carey added, "If we don't, I'll be the first to come back next year and say, 'Do something.' "

Seems like that will be mighty embarassing if they fail to do something. Of course Moses only said "make a decision." But surely the BOCC would not be so foolish as to make the decision to do nothing. I mean I guess they wouldn't . . .

Geographically based district voting is not an acceptable solution.

Terri, et. al. are on to something with preferential or cummulative voting. In fact, TerrI B. recently experienced the results of alternative voting when she won the position of Vice-Chair for the Town's Tech Board.

I don't know about sending something to Mr. "Hacknet" (funny typo) but I'd certainly endorse some form of non-geographical based voting based on alternatives that more fairly represent the minority (Will Shorter and the Libertarians might make a better showing and be more representative along ideological lines than a NE District candidate would).

Hey, maybe the Republican minority would support the Cloneproof method of voting as the most ideologically appealing alternative ;-).

To Mark Peters:

While the NC legislature has the most aggressive rules I've seen to ensure the majority leadership can "hammer" everyone else, most legislative bodies have some sort mechanism to control virtually every committee. There in lies the importance of electoral politics.

To Terri and Will: It seems to me that local politics is primarily about very localized issues ( sidewalks and roads and police and various planning and development projects). Thus, the most logical answer is to have representatives who are actually familiar with the areas they are governing.

Katrina--We've all seen by Chatham's growth that even county lines are artificial boundaries. What's local? Is it a geographic boundary or is it a demographic boundary (the concern about African-American representation)?

Are the concerns of North Orange the same as the concerns of South Orange? Does the Hispanic population in Carrboro have a different set of concerns from the Hispanic population of N. Orange? Those kinds of questions could be endless and keep any kind of change from occurring. Giving N. Orange a single opportunity on a 7-member council, as Faison's plan would have done, doesn't seem to me to be adequate to address the complexity of representative government. That's why I support cumulative voting; it is the best option for ensuring for a more representative commission.

Katrina, geographical-based representation at the district level poses a number of sticky problems. Besides the "Bunky Morgan" coup problem, how do you deal with gerrymandering or the inter-election shifts in populations (I assume the districts are redrawn on a timescale that won't adequately capture increases) or extreme variations in electoral vote counts (imagine NE District electing someone with 500 votes and the SE district [Chapel Hill/Carrboro] electing someone with 25,000 - where's the balance there?), to name a few.

Alternative voting systems elevate the voices of the minority (like the Libertarians or Greens or NE District citizens) without all the attendant baggage of geographical-based district voting.

A clarification that often needs to be made in these discussions - we are talking about rural-urban, not Northern Orange & CH/Carrboro. I live in rural western Orange County.

From The Center for Voting & Democracy newsletter:

IRV Bill Passes N.C. House and Draws Editorial Support
North Carolina cities and counties could use instant runoff voting (IRV) as soon as this fall. On May 18 a bill introduced by Rep. Paul Luebke received bipartisan approval in the North Carolina house by a vote of 79-32. Under Rep. Luebke's proposal, the State Board of Elections would work with up to ten counties interested in participating in the project for city elections this fall and county elections in 2006.

The effort was boosted by a FairVote project funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation that highlighted how IRV would have avoided a statewide runoff in 2004 that generated only 3% voter turnout, yet cost more than $3 million of taxpayer funds. A growing number of North Carolinians recognize that IRV could increase voter turnout, reduce the costs of elections and ensure more broadly supported winners. The bill is now headed to the state senate and has received a surge of editorial attention, including backing by the Wilmington Star-News and theAsheville Citizens-Times. Democracy North Carolina's Adam Sotak wrote strong commentaries in support of the bill in the Raleigh News and Observer and Winston-Salem Journal. Please see the following:

Information on the legislation
http://www.fairvote.org/index.php?page=983

Recent IRV editorials and op-eds
http://www.fairvote.org/index.php?page=21

FairVote's North Carolina project page
http://www.fairvote.org/nc

Democracy North Carolina
http://democracy-nc.org/default.htm

What a fantastic solution to runoffs. Here's a clip from fairvote.org:

How it works:
• First round of counting: The voters rank their choices for an office: 1, 2, 3. (Nobody
has to vote or rank more candidates than they want to.) In the first round of
counting, the voters' #1 choices are tallied. A candidate who gets enough first choices
to win (typically a majority) is the winner, unless another candidate achieves enough
support to require a runoff – just as in traditional runoff systems.
• Second round: If no one achieves a clear victory, all candidates except the top two
vote-getters are eliminated, just as in traditional runoffs. If your #1 choice loses,
your vote now goes to the runoff candidate you ranked best. The reallocated votes are
added to the counts of the top vote-getters; the candidate with the most votes wins.
The benefits:
Instant runoff voting (IRV) would do everything the current runoff system does to ensure
that the winner has popular support – but it does it in one election rather than two.
• It saves counties, taxpayers and candidates money now used to hold two elections.
• It ensures higher voter turnout than when voters are asked to return for a runoff.
• It eases the administrative burden on election officials who run one election, not two.
• It improves campaign tone; candidates want their opponents' voters to rank them #2.

Paul Newton and Bobby Clapp and others of the more conservative vein, where are you on cumulative voting?

I mean, I would think that it might serve ya'll well as far as ensuring a seat at the table. And if the conservatives get together with the progressives in advocating for cumulative voting . . . who knows what might happen?

The direction things are headed right now is toward a ward system that will be designed by the current BOCC. A ward system is one in which some (or all) BOCC seats are linked to geographic areas; voters from the entire county can vote in the race, but they must choose from among candidates who live in each ward. This would effectively mean that rural Orange County residents would serve on the BOCC, but they would be rural residents who were, effectively, chosen by Chapel Hill/Carrboro voters (because it would probably be almost impossible to get elected in a rural ward without appealing to urban voters).

As a practical matter a ward system will not be that much different than the present system. We have two BOCC members who live outside the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area, but they are very popular with Chapel Hill/Carrboro voters and that is how they got (and stay) where they are. I'm not criticizing those two, but apparently their presence does not address the concern that Faison et al. have raised.

So what about it Paul? Bobby? If conservatives don't change their present strategy, we are going to wind up with a ward system. Ready to give cumulative voting a try?

I agree that cumulative voting would be the way to go. There is nothing necessarily more democratic about either wards or districts. Mark explains the problem with wards. Districts tend to be shaped by those in power to ensure more so (e.g. recent grab of congressional seats by Texas Republicans). Cumulative voting, by contrast, always allows significant minorities to attain representation if they are well enough organized.

Mark C,

It is my understanding that there are no provisions for cummulative voting in the North Carolina General Statutes. Therefore at the present time, cummulative voting (while it is an interesting novelty) isn't a realistic option for the BOCC to persue.

Someone would have to champion the cause to convince Black and Basnight to support such a change. Perhaps we will see that on Hackney's, Insko's or Kinnaird's agenda sometime? ;-)

Getting cumulative voting approved (or some variant thereof) by the GA is probably just as likely as convincing the BOCC to implement a fair district representation plan of some sort (i.e. not very likely).

The ball is in the BOCC's court. We will just have to wait and see what they do next.

Paul--there's a bill in legislature right now to set up a pilot project (10 counties):
http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2005/Bills/House/HTML/H1024v3.html

Terri

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