Commissioners study voting district expansion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

JACKSON – Northampton County citizen Clarence Drumgoole has presented a summary on the county’s commissioners’ districts.

During their regular meeting on Monday, the commissioners individually received an envelope containing the information compiled by Drumgoole, who first submitted a letter to the board in early July about adding two commissioner districts to the county and expanding the board seats from five to seven to help even out a population disparity between the districts.

The information provided to the board on Monday, Drumgoole said was for their upcoming work session next month in which the commissioners will discuss the issue.

Drumgoole added his group Men United for Change was willing to assist the commissioners in anything else.

According to Drumgoole’s most recent letter, the current five districts are known as “residency districts,” which require candidates for a particular district to live within that area. However, he added county citizens are allowed to vote for all five commissioners at large, versus “pure electoral districts” that allow only those district’s residents to vote for those candidates in that district.

Drumgoole wrote because the county had residency districts, this would have two “consequences,” one being the commissioners do not have the authority to redraw the districts and the other that “federal courts would probably allow greater population inequality between districts than if the districts were pure electoral districts.”

In late July, Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins presented a study based on the 2000 Census data of the current five districts to the commissioners. That study showed a disparity between the districts, especially in District 5 (Occoneechee Neck, Pleasant Hill and Gaston areas), which has the highest population (38 percent of Northampton’s citizens live there) as well as the highest number of registered voters (5,818).

In the study Jenkins said, among the options for consideration, the commissioners could redraw the existing districts to a more evenly apportioned population within each district or add a sixth district which would be created west of Gaston. Else wise, they could take no action pending receipt by the county of the 2010 census information, since any action would be based on eight-year-old information.

As for methods for modifying the districts, a local act passed by the North Carolina General Assembly could alter or change the number of districts. The process could be completed by the adoption of a resolution by the board followed by a pubic referendum on the proposed alterations.