Don't tweak it

The Orange County Commissioners will be discussing their new representation plan again tonight. Personally, I think making minor changes is a waste of time. The current plan is overly complicated and is not any more representative than the current at-large elections.

In February, the board chose a proposal for a referendum in November that would have created a five-member panel -- as it is now -- with the county divided into two districts. In a three-to-two vote, the board agreed candidates would live in the districts but be nominated and elected by voters.

Under the proposal, Chapel Hill Township would be its own district and have two board members. The rest of the county would be another district and have one board member. The other two board members would be elected at-large countywide.
- heraldsun.com: Officials may tweak district representation proposal, 3/21/06

My proposal would look something like this:

  1. Increase the Board from 5 to 7 members.
  2. Eliminate partisan primaries. Maybe have district primaries, if ...
  3. Create 4 geographics districts (voted on only by people in that district) and 3 at-large seats.

Issues: 

Total votes: 178

Comments

Cummulative systems (whichever variation you pick), will allow coalitions to form across geographic regions - for instance, urban voters teaming with rural farmers to elect a candidate supporting farm preservation.

Not that I am against it, necessarily, but is cummulative voting legal yet? How can the BOCC institute a method of voting that isn't legal in the State of North Carolina?

If disenfranchisement is the reason for districting, non-partisan elections would remedy the disenfranchisement of a much larger segment of the voting public, the Independent, than the much smaller Northern OC Republican contingent. And, unlike the Repubs, the Independent can only vote for either parties candidates in the primary, they cannot field their own.

Again, I don't neccessarily disagree with the non-partisan point that you make, but what Northern OC Republicans? It was rural Democrats who initially petitioned the BOCC along with Representative Bill Faison (D). The charge for District Representation seems to be organized by rural Orange County Democrats, not Republicans.

For that matter, the Orange County GOP has been characteristically silent on this and other important Orange County issues for years. Can anyone name one local issue the Orange County GOP has recently taken a stand on? Hint: You don't even need one hand to count.

I guess I just don't understand the label "Northern OC Republican contingent" with respect to this issue.

7 members, more than 2 districts - anything less is no kind of change.

It's really a mess.

I'd go with Mark on the 7 members but add (or subtract, if you will):

replace districts concept with cummulative voting, non-partisan elections to open representation to the %30 of registered residents not-affiliated with a party, super-precincts to increase rural and university turnout, shorter terms to "keep it fresh".

Jason Baker wrote a fun piece on the OC-BOCC proposal yesterday.

Tonight's meeting is @ 7:30:
MAP
Southern Human Services
2501 Homestead Road
Chapel Hill, NC

The democratic travesty ;-) is agenda item 9a.

Before Gerry jumps in to defend our county's Dem super-majority - while the BOE reports only %25 of voters are independent (unaffiliated or libertarians) - the rolls for Dems are inflated.

Here's my quick analysis (which could be completely off-base):

BOE reports 94,482 voters in OC, roughly 50K Dem, 21K Rep and 23K Independent (how's that for framing?).

I have a dataset that represents a subset of these voters in Chapel Hill. I ran that dataset against public records to check mailing addresses. I found that many of the Independents had "fresh" registrations whose addresses matched consistently with public records. I found many more Dems "fell out" off the list when I did an equivalent match - they were "stale", so to speak.

So, my belief is that the records overcount Dems. Extrapolating Chapel Hill's numbers (which represents a fair chunk of all OC voters), we can infer a similar inflation of the Dem majority figures in OC as a whole.

BTW, according to 2002 census, there were 122,526 residents in OC then - we can imagine more now. Given that, it's interesting that only 28K+ residents are supposedly not registered (because they're kids?). Looks like the voter rolls could use a good review.

Oh yeah, I forgot cumulative/instant-runoff voting! That might be easier and more effective than geographic districts.

Yay! An issue we all agree on!

Now if only the BOCC would listen to reason...

I agree that the plan on the table is not worth going to the effort to change it. While I am not sure that cumulative voting is something that would get enough support here to be adopted, I do see some advantages, particularly in that geography is just one of many diverse considerations.

Have you seen how many committees the current 5 commissioners serve on? Maybe 7 would be better in this respect.

Will, thanks for the pointer to Jason's article. It is hilarious and some parts are pretty insightful.

Wow! What committee hogs! To think they've rejected me from every committee I've applied for these past two years...

I know we're asking for a little political courage here but I think the overall benefit of opening the process will actually reward the incumbents (at least initially).

Cummulative systems (whichever variation you pick), will allow coalitions to form across geographic regions - for instance, urban voters teaming with rural farmers to elect a candidate supporting farm preservation.

If disenfranchisement is the reason for districting, non-partisan elections would remedy the disenfranchisement of a much larger segment of the voting public, the Independent, than the much smaller Northern OC Republican contingent. And, unlike the Repubs, the Independent can only vote for either parties candidates in the primary, they cannot field their own.

I wonder if the OC is a microcosm of a larger movement away from the two dominent parties, not towards a third or fourth alternative, but to the "no party" party. If so, our BOCC should acknowledge that trend and support reform that creates the widest possible democratic process.

any of the following would require approval by the General Assembly:
1) cumulative voting
2) IRV (instant runoffs)
3) nonpartisan primary
4) nonpartisan general election

And term limits would probably involve a state constitutional amendment, I think (Gerry?)

Paul, someone told me that many of the petitioners were Rep. Doesn't matter if it was Rep or Dem driving the process - districting will not address the current fundamental problems with representation and will not decrease the disenfranchisement of the largest sector of registered voters - independents.

Mark, shorter terms not term limits.

Gerry, if you don't ask, you won't get... For instance, red-light cameras and the lottery also required the permission of the legislature - is cummulative voting any worse?

If the OC BOCC wants to set things right, why not ask them to be bold - an have them make fundamental adjustments in the system?

Looks like a referendum will come forth in November. A 7 member board with county-wide voting in the primary and general elections. It passed 4 to 1 (Moses Cary dissenting).

I was fascinated to learn during Commissioner Barry Jacobs comments regarding district representation that he considers himself to be a "conservative". Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!

So I trundled up to the hearing to ask the BOCC for 3 alternative items to be voted on:

1. cummulative voting
2. non-partisan elections
3. seven member board

and to forget about the divisive district proposals.

Interesting hearing in some ways. Jacobs and Halkiotis strongly defending their ruralness, Carey trying to retrogress to the worst position, Gordon and Foushee flailing about a bit, and most every speaker a BOC candidate or State Rep ;-).

Everyone, except Halkiotis and myself, said this "wasn't about politics". Yet, they all support proposals that extend the dominant power structures (Halkiotis went into length about being born Democratic - an being unapologetic about maintaining the Dem edge in "the OC"). If it isn't about politics, then a referendum on non-partisan elections (even if it requires legislative permission) should be a no-brainer. Moreso since Faison and company claim their impetus is all about the franchise. Non-partisan elections will give voice to the %25+ OC voters that have none now.

Discussion went on at length on how to balkanize the OC, including the confounding issue of district nomination/election vs. district nomination. I countered Faison's claim of the supremacy of geographical representation by pointing out that in the new voter demographic "it isn't geography, it's issues."

The BOCC continued to treat "the maps" as some kind of static shrine of voter demographics. This after recently sitting through hours of presentations highlighting the quickening pace of population growth throughout the county. The question of "what to do when Cedar Grove's population triples in the next 5 years?" still hasn't entered the picture. There's no way to fairly cut this baby - call in Solomon - forget divisively dividing "the OC".

Finally, there was some debate on 5 vs 7 reps. Halkiotis said "it's elementary math" to others claims of complexity. OC populations in hitting 150K, these guys sit on a bazillion boards and are spread awful thin. I made the point that 7 over 5 was nothing more than addressing the current workload more efficiently.

So, the motion on the table was for a 7 member board, split into the proposed districts, along map lines Jacobs and Gordon, I believe, will derive.

Where do we stand?

No real attempt to correct longtime deficiencies in the system, every attempt to preserve the dominant power structure and a race to the worst, most divisive and balkanizing proposal on the table.

Thank you for the post WillR but do you or anyone else expect this BOCC to make real changes to how we elect them. The only reason they are doing anything is because a bill was introduced in the General Assembly. When the Dems' power is threaten they will be for change.

As for commissioners serving on these committees, has anyone kept attendance data?

Jacobs is rural, huh?

I wonder why lawyer Bill Faison was able to stomp him in my (and Jacobs') precinct for their primary a couple years ago...

And folks are right when they say this isn't a Rep vs Dem thing. This is a Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Ellie Kinnaird actually mentions you/I want to live in the towns but can't afford it vs Hillsborough/rural voters. The fact of the matter is we end up with Jacobs being pointed to as a rural candidate when he can't even carry his own precinct. He's a nice guy, but he is elected by Chapel Hill, not me and my neighbors.

And that ain't gonna change any time soon with this proposal. Without district primaries, you might as well just not do anything at all.

Jacobs is rural, huh?

More than that. Commissioner Jacobs clearly stated last night, in no uncertain terms, that he was a "conservative".

The fact of the matter is we end up with Jacobs being pointed to as a rural candidate when he can't even carry his own precinct.

Going back to the 2002 Primary for BOCC, I think Jacobs faired much better in the rural precincts than he did in the 2004 Primary for NC House 50. Although Jacobs did win Orange County in 2004 by 664 votes. It must have been his "conservative" base getting out the vote. ;-)

On the other hand in 2002, Steve Halkiotis did not fair so well in rural Orange County. In the 2002 Primary for BOCC, Halkiotis came in last place in most rural precincts and barely placed third in his home precinct. That year's Democratic challenger was Orange County School Board member Keith Cook who placed well in rural precincts.

Patrick, when I and others first introduced these ideas the first week of BOC hearings, I expected, at least, a cursorary review by the staff and a footnote in their report. Of course, we didn't even get the courtesy of a dismissive review.

Given that, I thought I'd give the BOC another chance to discuss options that would promote wider electoral participation and encourage issues-oriented collaboration.

The suggestions are back out there for them to ignore again.

But at least we have a bright example in which to throw the wretched solution they're headed for in stark relief.

Paul-

I agree with you on Halkiotis as well, but his poor rural showing might be due in part to his (from what I understand) huge lack of popularity in the Orange County School System. One would imagine teachers would vote en bloc, but more importantly, they have a lot of community interaction and a lot of parents didn't particularly like Halkiotis' tenure as a principal way back before my day.

The lack of fair representation has been an unacknowledged problem in so many issues over the last few decades - the merger issue being the most recent. It has been a large source of divisiveness, confusion, and political apathy. This has translated into policy which is less informed that it could be.

This proposal may just add more frustration to the mix - although there is the real possibility that enlarging to seven members will have a positive effect and facilitate getting more diverse, better representative commissioners to the table. Of course, if this does happen, the commissioners will lump the pathetic district changes in with that success and call the whole thing a solid reform. It is very disappointing that after all these years and countless discussions of this problem that we are presented with an alternative that barely can be called mediocre.

Interesting poll results from Editor & Publisher

Republicans had gained the upper hand in recent years, but 33% of Americans, in the latest Gallup poll, now call themselves Democrats, with those favoring the GOP one point behind. But Gallup says this widens a bit more "once the leanings of Independents are taken into account."

Independents now make up 34% of the population. When asked if they lean in a certain direction, their answers pushed the Democrat numbers to 49% with Republicans at 42%. One year ago, the parties were dead even at 46% each.

via Matthew Gross' Deride and Conquer.

looks like an expansion to 7, of which 4 of the seats are to be elected like the current system, the other three nominated by districts and elected at-large
-------

http://herald-sun.com/orange/10-725870.html
Apr 19, 2006 : 12:02 am ET

CHAPEL HILL -- The county commissioners Tuesday night made a major change to a plan altering how commissioners are elected.

The commissioners voted, four to one, to allow voters to only nominate candidates living in their district. A measure to allow district nomination had been voted down before.

Barry Jacobs, chairman of the commissioners, voted against the measure.

Voters countywide would be able to elect any candidate in the general election, no matter which district he or she lives in.

A map was for district representation was also unanimously adopted Tuesday night. The map divides the county into two districts. Voters in Chapel Hill Township would select two members, while voters in the rest of the county, which is in another district, would nominate one. The remaining four commissioners would be elected at-large, according to the proposal.

The board must still approve a resolution encompassing expanding the board, the district map, and a plan to transition to the new structure. Once the resolution is approved, the proposal will go onto the November ballot for voters to accept or reject.
.....

Yep, the quickening slide into disenfranchising mediocrity.

IRV starts to move again
http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2005&Bil...

(latest edition is the 4th edition, which was approved in committee today and will be posted to the website above above Tuesday evening. Provides for up to 10 counties to test IRV in partisan primaries in 2006, and 10 cities to test IRV in 2005. Senate may vote Wednesday July 11.)

IRV starts to move again
http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2005&Bil...

(latest edition is the 4th edition, which was approved in committee today and will be posted to the website above above Tuesday evening. Provides for up to 10 counties to test IRV in partisan primaries in 2008, and 10 cities to test IRV in 2005. Senate may vote Wednesday July 11.)

(corrected 2006 to 2008)

IRV starts to move again
http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2005&Bil...

(latest edition is the 4th edition, which was approved in committee today and will be posted to the website above above Tuesday evening. Provides for up to 10 counties to test IRV in partisan primaries in 2008, and 10 cities to test IRV in 2007. Senate may vote Wednesday July 11.)

(corrected 2006 to 2008 and 2005 to 2007, sorry for multiple posts)

Thanks Gerry. Hopefully IRV is the first step towards cummulative voting. Now, what's the chances for non-partisan BOC elections?

I had an interesting interchange with Bill Faison at a County Commissioners meeting several months ago when I suggested to him that IRV or cumulative voting would be a better solution than any district plans and also mentioned this legislative initiative. He very aggressively told me that there was no such initiative or he would know about it. I said I thought that Paul Luebke was one of the people working to advance this and he fired back at me that no-one listens to Luebke and that he doesn't get anything done. It was a strange and informative moment.

Governor Easley on Thursday signed into law Paul Luebke's bill to allow IRV (Instant Runoff voting)
http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2005&Bil...
http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2005/Bills/House/HTML/H1024v7.html

SECTION 1.(a) The State Board of Elections shall select local jurisdictions in which to conduct a pilot program during the 2007 and 2008 elections for local offices using instant runoff voting. The State Board shall select:

(1) Up to 10 cities for the 2007 elections.

(2) Up to 10 counties for the 2008 elections.

In selecting those local jurisdictions, the State Board shall seek diversity of population size, regional location, and demographic composition. The pilot shall be conducted only with the concurrence of the county board of elections that conducts elections for the local jurisdiction. If a city is selected that has voters in more than one county, the concurrence of all the county boards of elections that conduct that city's elections is required. The pilot program shall consist of using instant runoff voting as the method for determining the winner or winners of a partisan primary or a nonpartisan election that normally uses nonpartisan election and runoff or nonpartisan primary and election. Instant runoff voting may also be used to determine results in an election where nonpartisan plurality elections are normally used, but only if the governing board of the local jurisdiction concurs.

As used in this section, "instant runoff voting" means a system in which voters rank up to three of the candidates by order of preference, first, second, or third. If the candidate with the most first‑choice votes receives the threshold of victory of the first‑choice votes, that candidate wins. If no candidate receives the threshold of victory of first‑choice votes, the two candidates with the greatest number of first‑choice votes advance to a second round of counting. In this round, each ballot counts as a vote for whichever of the two final candidates is ranked highest by the voter. The candidate with the most votes in the second round wins the election.

The threshold of victory of first‑choice votes for a partisan primary shall be forty percent (40%) plus one vote. The threshold of victory for a nonpartisan election and runoff or nonpartisan primary and election shall be a majority of the vote. The threshold of victory in a contest that normally uses nonpartisan plurality shall be determined by the State Board with the concurrence of the county board of elections and the local governing board.

If more than one seat is to be filled in the same race, the voter votes the same way as if one seat were to be filled. The counting is the same as when one seat is to be filled, with one or two rounds as needed, except that counting is done separately for each seat to be filled. The first counting results in the first winner. Then the second count proceeds without the name of the first winner. This process results in the second winner. For each additional seat to be filled, an additional count is done without the names of the candidates who have already won.

Other details of instant runoff voting are as described in House Bill 1024 (First Edition) of the 2005 Regular Session of the General Assembly, with modifications the State Board deems necessary, in primaries and/or elections for city offices, for county offices, or for both. Those modifications may include giving the voter more than three choices in case of multi‑seat contests. The State Board shall not use instant runoff voting in a primary or election for an office unless the entire electorate for the office uses the same method.

===============
so, will either the Chapel Hill or Carrboro Town Boards (with the concurrence of the county board(s) of elections) volunteer their mayoral and/or town board elections as a pilot for 2007, or will the Orange County Board of Elections volunteer a countywide primary in 2008 for a test? Is there any local interest in this?

Fantastic news Gerry.

I think the BOCC should ditch the district plan and ask to adopt IRV. I've always been told migrating towards cummulative voting would be much more difficult than implementing non-partisan BOCC elections. With this win, I'll be back before the commissioners asking for both...

That is great news. I think IRV would be a great way to acheive more representative County Commissioner elections. (Certainly better than the current proposal.)

Solid good news - I hope the democrats can prevail over the Democrats to make this happen in O.C.

Can someone explain how this will work in districts with multiple representatives? Will they still be filled one at a time, chosen from pairs with the most first place votes? If that is the case, it seems like it is possible that someone could get elected with only a few percent of the vote.

 

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