Under the Dome

Sunday scramble to fill elections board vacancy amid redistricting uncertainties

The state Board of Elections scheduled an emergency meeting for Sunday night to fill a vacancy on the Wake County Board of Elections so that redistricting for the county’s school district and board of commissioners can be in place by Election Day.

The state board unanimously appointed Edwin Woodhouse Jr. to the county elections board, filling a vacancy left when Brian Ratledge resigned earlier this year. Woodhouse, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Raleigh City Council last year, joins Republican W. Ellis Boyle and Democrat Mark Ezzell.

The move to bring the three-member board to its full strength came after U.S. District Court Judge James Dever III issued an order to the board on Sunday. Dever directed the Wake elections board to provide estimates of how long it would take to prepare for the November general election under several scenarios.

“The court's focus is on having timely and orderly elections while being faithful to the Fourth Circuit's mandate and governing precedent,” Dever wrote, referring to last month’s federal court ruling nullifying the Wake school board and county commissioner election districts. “As such, the court requests that the Wake County Board of Elections rank the four options listed above, from most feasible to have orderly elections to least feasible to have orderly elections. If it is infeasible or impossible to have orderly elections on November 8, 2016, under any of the four options, the Wake County Board of Elections shall notify the court of this fact in its response to this order.”

Dever gave the board until 4 p.m. Monday to respond.

(1) Use the redistricting plan that the Fourth Circuit declared unconstitutional; or,

(2) Use the 2011 School Board redistricting plan that was used in elections in Wake County in 2011 and 2013 and use the 2011 Wake County Board of Commissioners redistricting plan that was used in elections in Wake County in 2014; or,

(3) Use the Representative Gill seven single-member district redistricting plan at Trial Exhibits 4 71-72 and the two single-member super district redistricting plan at Trial Exhibits 4 73-74;

(4) Use the illustrative seven single-member district redistricting plan and the two single-member super district redistricting plan that the legislative leaders submitted on August 3, 2016.

On July 1, a three-judge panel found that the redistricting in 2013 and 2015 gave an unfair advantage to voters in suburban districts and should not be used. The maps violated equal representation, or “one person, one vote” principles in the U.S. Constitution, the panel said. The federal panel ordered Dever to prohibit use of the new maps in the November elections but didn’t tell him what to use instead.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

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