District voting plan defeated

Staff WriterNovember 8, 2006 

CHATHAM COUNTY DISTRICT VOTING MEASURE

District Voting Measure

Yes 45% (7,736)

No 54% (9,295)

All precincts reporting

PITTSBORO -- Chatham County voters defeated a measure calling for county commissioners to be elected by district.

Precincts in northeast Chatham led the votes against it, while precincts in the western part of the county voted for it.

The results mean the whole county will continue to elect all five commissioners, who must live in their districts.

"I thought the referendum was very important," said Steve MacNeil, 61, who voted no.

"What I was led to believe was, if you go to district voting, it would change the way things worked around here," he said. "If it's one way so many years, why change it? It seemed to be politically motivated."

Tuesday's results mean the incoming county board can choose to erase newly drawn commissioner districts that were approved by the three outgoing board members in August.

The new map moved Commissioner-elect George Lucier into the same the district as Commissioner Patrick Barnes, which would have prevented Barnes from seeking re-election in 2008 and required the two men to run against each other in 2010.

Some speculated the new map and the districtwide proposal were part of outgoing Commissioner Chairman Bunkey Morgan's plan to get back on the board in two years instead of four. He lost in May's primary and proposed both changes two months after he was defeated.

"People have woken up to what's going on in Chatham County," said Jeffrey Starkweather, chairman of the Chatham Coalition, which campaigned against districtwide voting.

The Coalition, along with Citizens for Countywide Voting and Take Back Our Vote, also opposed the districtwide voting measure, saying it would disenfranchise minorities.

The Association to Defend Chatham's Heritage was formed to support the measure, saying it was needed to give the western part of the county better representation. Rapid growth in northeast Chatham, it said, would give that part of the county an advantage.

The association's chairman Jesse Albright could not be reached Tuesday night.

Staff writer Leah Friedman can be reached at 932-2002 or leah.friedman@newsobserver.com.

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