Wake County Republicans are hoping new state Supreme Court rulings that hurt GOP political efforts by forcing changes to political maps could be used to help Republicans in the state’s largest county and seat of state government.
Republicans held a rally trying to force the Democratic County commission to work with the Wake County legislative delegation to change how Wake commissioners are elected. Wake County elects all of its county commissioners at large. In a county dominated by Democrats, Republicans don’t have a single commissioner. Commissioners are required to live in certain “residency” districts.
But the recent State Supreme Court case finding that some sort of partisan fairness is required in legislative map-making has Republicans arguing that a combination of at-large and district elections is required in Wake County.
“We’re here because the most effective and brutal gerrymander in North Carolina is here in Wake County, right behind us, in the Wake County commission,” said Wake Republican Darren Eustance.
As long as the county commission is elected countywide, the districts are an illusion. The elections aren’t decided by who lives in a commissioners’ district, but by the big population centers in Wake County. Raleigh votes for Holly Springs’ commissioner. Cary votes for Garner’s commissioner. Apex votes for Zebulon’s commissioner. Smaller communities are left voiceless when the commission is elected by total countywide vote.”
“Furthermore, not only is Wake County larger than eight states, but it is the only large county in North Carolina to elect all commissioners countywide. This is wrong, has always been wrong, and will continue to be wrong. Following the Harper decision, it’s also unconstitutional.”
Harper says: “The General Assembly must not diminish or dilute any individual’s vote on the basis of partisan affiliation. The fundamental right to vote includes the right to enjoy ‘substantially equal voting power and substantially equal legislative representation.’
“Countywide elections result in 40% of the voting population holding 0% of the commission seats. This is despite the fact that were the elections held by district, several of those districts would be competitive and give voters a real choice.”
Republican state Senate candidate Mark Cavaliero spoke at the rally urging the creation of the new district election system.
“The current process for electing county commissioners in Wake skews results and results in lack of local representation. It’s time to end this broken system and switch to district-based elections.”
Former State House majority leader Skip Stam wrote a letter to the County Commissioners saying they immediately create districts for elections or face a lawsuit.
“There is no reason that this entirely new constitutional interpretation would not immediately apply to units of local government as well,” Stam wrote.
“Wake county should immediately be redistricting for 2022,” Stam said. “Republicans would likely win two seats.” Stam added that “failure to do so may well result in successful litigation.”
Republicans in the General Assembly passed a bill creating a district-based election system a couple of years ago, but a court blocked the action.