Bill would make Wake County commissioner races nonpartisan | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is Alex Baltzegar.

    Rep. Erin Pare, R-Wake, filed a bill on Tuesday that would make Wake County commissioner races nonpartisan. House Bill 99 would also allow voters in each of the seven districts to choose who represents them.

    Currently, seven Wake County commissioners represent seven different districts in Wake, but the entire county votes on them. County Commissioner races are also partisan, meaning you must have a political party label under your name on the ballot.

    "People deserve a County Commissioner who is accountable to them and the local interests of their part of the county," Pare tweeted on Monday. "What we have now is akin to taxation without representation."

    Democrats make up about 62% of registered partisan voters in Wake County, while Republicans make up about 38%, according to the NC Board of Elections. Recent voting results indicate that most partisan election results mirror this split closely.

    With this fraction, one might expect the seven-person Wake County commissioners board to be a roughly 4-3 or even 5-2 Democrat-majority board; however, because the entire county votes on each district's election, the board is entirely Democratic.

    "I spoke to every Wake County Commissioner last spring about this issue except for one who never returned my call," said Pare. "I asked them to implement this change themselves so the N.C.G.A. didn't have to. They clearly refused."

    In 2021, the Wake County Board of Commissioners voted to redraw their own district lines and lengthen their terms. They also voted themselves 132% pay increases, more than doubling their salaries.

    Wake County is currently larger than eight states, with a population of 1,129,410 according to the 2020 census. That means Wake County commissioners currently have larger constituencies than any U.S. Congressional District.

    "Changing county commission races in Wake County to a district-based system is a good idea," said Andy Jackson, the Civitas Center for Public Integrity director. "The current district-at-large arrangement, requiring candidates to live in the district but being voted on countywide, is an illusion of local representation. In every district, the majority of votes come from outside that district."

    Wake County commissioner district lines were the subject of a federal court ruling back in 2016.
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