On Thursday, the North Carolina Senate approved a bill to make Wake County Commissioner elections more democratic. House Bill 99 (H.B. 99) would change the election process to make Wake County Commissioners elected by their districts rather than At-Large (county-wide), as is current law.

Wake County voters currently cast ballots for all seven members of the Board of Commissioners. However, H.B. 99 changes the law so that voters in each district will vote on candidates running to represent the district they live in.

Democrats in Wake County, including the Wake County Commissioners, previously opposed the bill. The bill originally contained provisions to make the elections non-partisan, elected by their districts, and no At-Large seats.

Rep. Erin Paré, the only elected Republican lawmaker in Wake County, is the sponsor of the bill.

Paré worked out a compromise deal with the Democratic Wake County Commissioners. The deal included keeping their elections partisan and adding two At-Large seats but making the commissioners elected by their districts instead of At-Large.

“Bringing more local representation to the Wake Board of Commissioners has been important to me and to my constituents for a long time,” said Paré. “I am very pleased that the Wake County Commissioners came to the table and agreed to district-based representation. This is the right thing to do for the people.” 

Image courtesy of the Wake County Board of Elections website.

“Wake County is home to 1.2 million residents and is larger in population than eight states,” Paré said. “We all know that elected officials are accountable to the people that elect them to office. When 55% of the electorate resides in Raleigh and Cary, the more rural communities in Wake do not have the accountability they deserve in their elected officials, and that’s wrong. I appreciate the give and take this compromise required and look forward to effective representation for the Wake County towns and nonincorporated areas going forward.”

In a tweet following the bill’s passing, Paré said it “rights a major wrong that has gone on for too long in Wake [County], and finally establishes fair representation on the county board no matter where you live in the county.”

The House passed H.B. 99 by a vote of 117-0, including full support from Wake County’s Democratic lawmakers. The bill passed the Senate and was enrolled into law on Wednesday.

Because H.B. 99 is a local bill, it is not subject to consideration from Gov. Roy Cooper.