Beaufort County struggles with what to do about Limited Voting | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.

    The Monday August 5 public hearing on a report from the Beaufort County Limited Voting Elections Committee produced uncertainty. After a committee composed of 12 citizens and commissioners studied how to change limited voting for six months Chairman Gary Brinn tabled his motion citing the need for further study.

    Three citizens spoke at he public hearing. Comments consisted of a brief history of limited voting presented by Stan Deatherage followed by Keith Mason complaining the meetings were not advertised well enough for citizen attendance and the lack of public involvement in the process. He complained that he had difficulty in finding out when meetings were held and therefore did not have the opportunity to attend meetings. Roland Whitley stated that the proposal would deny minorities the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice as much as they now have.

    Elections Director Kelli Hopkins explained the Committee's proposal.

    After the public hearing, Commissioner Gary Brinn made a motion to proceed with changing the present litigation settlement to give voters an additional vote only when four commissioners were running. Four commissioners are elected ever four years. Three commissioners are elected in a staggered four year schedule. The additional vote when four commissioners are running was recommended by the study committee based on a report prepared by Professor Arrington with UNC at Charlotte about seven years ago. This is the only change in limited voting recommended by the study committee.

    Brinn presented a report prepared by Steve Modlin, East Carolina University Political Science Assistant Professor, whose opinion was that the additional vote would produce a sure fire election win for sitting minority commissioner Jerry Langley.

    Each commissioner presented his comments on the proposal. Robert Belcher made a plea for districts similar to those used to elect school board members. The School Board method of election resulted from the merger of Washington City Schools and Beaufort County Schools. The court order impacting the schools was related to student assignment, not election of the boards. Chairman Jerry Langley and Commissioner Ed Booth stated flatly they supported no change to the present limited voting system and would vote against the proposal. Langley pointed out that because minorities may up only about 27% of the voters that doubling the number of vote each voter could cast would double the total number of white votes by a factor of 3:1 against blacks. "That's just common sense ..." he said (that the proposal would be creating more white votes than black votes. Commissioner Al Klemm favored the proposed change. Stan Deatherage supported change but was not willing to spend a large amount of money to simply add one more vote in alternate elections. He wanted a budget and some support for change form the black community.

    Commissioner Hood Richardson requested copies of the data used by Professor Modlin from which his conclusions were drawn. Richardson indicated that he could support change provided an acceptable budget was presented and a written agreement were to be reached with the parties to the lawsuit that led to limited voting as to what changes they would support. Richardson's opinion is the proposed change is only a token and was not going to be worth his estimated cost of $400,000.

    Opening up the process to the various demographic and statistical studies, US Justice Department examinations, and interest groups of all kinds could produce results that neither black nor white voters would like. Even if terms could be agreed to by the parties to the original law suit there is no guarantee that any other interest group could not object to proposed changes and put the entire process at the risk of great expense. Richardson noted that the Federal judge would not be bound to just accept or reject the proposed change but could impose something we have no vision of now.

    While this process has been enthusiastically pursed by Commissioner Brinn and his political supporters there is little evidence of a ground swell of activists who demand a change in the way voters select commissioners in Beaufort County. There were less than a half dozen citizens in attendance for the public hearing. There were allegations during the meeting that the whole purpose of the proposed change was so conservative commissioners Richardson and Deatherage would stand less chance of being elected. Ed Booth, with tongue in cheek, asserted that if Hood Richardson were to die the entire issue would disappear.

    As the debate progressed it became apparent that Brinn did not have the four required votes to proceed with his proposed change and he asked that his motion be tabled pending the production of additional information. There was talk of creating another study committee which would include two attorneys, one being Democrat and one Republican. So what started as a show that Commissioner Brinn was fulfilling his campaign promises has come down to a slightly modified limited voting system when keeps the same basic system intact.

    The video below contains the discussion of the issue in Monday's meeting:


Go Back


Leave a Guest Comment

Your Name or Alias
Your Email Address ( your email address will not be published)
Enter Your Comment ( no code or urls allowed, text only please )




Governor McCrory Releases Statement on Rise in High School Graduation Rates County Commissioners, Government, Governing Beaufort County Governor McCrory Clears the Way for Additional Rural Center Grants


HbAD0

Latest Governing Beaufort County

Members of the North Carolina Rural Health Association (NCRHA) visited Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14, 2024, to meet with elected officials and advocate for policies to improve access to care in rural areas.
North Carolina's Rate Bureau has requested for 2024 an annual increase of 42.2%, whereby North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has exhibited a great willingness to take a firm stand against such an exorbitant increase.
I reckon one could always argue that ignorance rests in the eyes of the beholder, but, I'm not taking that bet ... not in these Orwellian times, when so few of our fellow travelers know so little of what is real, and far too much of what otherwise might be terminally fake.
There were numerous local professional and educational opportunities showcased on Wednesday at the Beaufort County Job and Resource Fair.
Please click on the link to access the agenda for the Monday, February 12, 2024 City Council meeting
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will hold a special called meeting with the Beaufort County Board of Education on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at 3:30 PM at the Professional Development Center located at 845 Pierce St, Washington, NC.

HbAD1

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will meet at 121 W. 3rd St, Washington, during the following times for their annual Planning Retreat:
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will meet in regular session on Monday, February 5, 2024 at 5:30 PM in the boardroom located at 136 W. 2nd St, Washington, NC
This morning’s update included very minor changes to timing of today’s forecasted impacts.
This afternoon’s update from the National Weather Service (NWS) included another increase in the forecasted wind conditions for Beaufort County.
This morning’s update from the National Weather Service (NWS) included an elevated threat of severe weather, to include the possibility of tornados, as well as an increase in the forecasted wind conditions.
Our office is continuing to monitor an approaching cold front that is expected to bring high winds, elevated water levels, rain and the potential for severe storms to our area Tuesday and Wednesday. Forecast details for Beaufort County can be found below.

HbAD2

Please click on the link to access the agenda for the Monday, January 8, 2024 City Council meeting.

HbAD3

 
Back to Top