A bill sponsored by N.C. Sen. Chad Barefoot appears destined to pass this House later this week after it got quickly shuttled through the Senate last week. The bill, which would alter the political landscape of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, calls for the addition of two seats to the county board and the establishment of two districts that would serve roughly half the county each. The other seven districts would be redrawn, but would represent roughly the same number of people.
Barefoot’s logic is that adding the seats would give voters two representatives on the county board instead of the single commissioner that currently represents each district. But the bill also prohibits voters from voting for all their county commissioners. Instead of being able to vote for all seven seats, voters will only be able to help decide two seats. In that way, the bill limits the power of voters.
Barefoot has hardly tried to disguise the primary motivation behind the bill, which is to give Republicans a greater chance to win elections to the county board. His legislation comes in the wake of a disastrous election cycle for Republicans at the county level in 2014. And, to be clear, we would be discouraged by that kind of political machination regardless of which party the bill was intended to support.
What should be noted by voters is that the state is continuing to tinker with government at the county level in ways that most people don’t appreciate. The state of North Carolina has plenty of big challenges on its plate without worrying about how counties elect their leadership. In fact, there has been no major hue and cry among the electorate for these changes. The fact that they come when they do tells us there is little more than a political motivation behind it. And, we’re pretty sure no voter sends an elected official to office with the goal of engaging in political gamesmanship.
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Instead, we wish Barefoot would focus on issues like straightening out the state’s Medicaid program, finding funding for schools that lack resources in some of the poorest parts of the state and making sure that big business doesn’t grab all the eggs while they are in the hen house.