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Wake County’s Only House Republican Files Bill to Make Democrat-Controlled County Board of Commissioners Nonpartisan

Source: News & Observer

A House bill introduced by Wake County’s only Republican House legislator, Erin Paré, would change how residents elect their county commissioners, according to The News & Observer

House Bill 99 would make the Wake County commissioners’ elections nonpartisan and require that board members be elected by district instead of all being at large.

Last Monday, the Wake County Board of Commissioners held a work session and met with the county’s lobbyist, former Raleigh City Council member Philip Isley to discuss the bill.

As absurd as it might seem that the state House would need to meddle in how a single county’s residents vote for their commissioners, the bill has a shot.

“It’s capable of moving,” Isley said.

“There’s still a right good ways for that bill to travel and there are opportunities or amendments that might make it a little more palatable, or less palatable,” he added. “So it is a long process, but these are some of the first bills that are actually moving.”

The legislation is not the first time state Republicans have tried changing how Wake County commissioners are elected. The party has been at it since Democrats took control of the seven-member board nearly a decade ago, in 2014.

Paré had previously told The N&O that her bill “is not about electing a certain person from a certain political party.”

Commissioners were surprised by HB 99 – Vickie Adamson said it “came out of left field” and that one of the reasons Paré gave for making the elections nonpartisan was that “unaffiliated voters made up the largest voting bloc,” according to The N&O.

“If that’s the case, why wouldn’t the (races for) judges and the legislators coming from Wake County also be nonpartisan?” Adamson asked. 

And of course, there are other North Carolina counties where unaffiliated voters are the largest voting bloc.

“So why would you laser focus in on us?” Adamson asked. “If this is a huge problem that requires legislative action without us requesting it?”

The bill passed its first reading in the House on Feb. 14 and was re-referred to the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House on Feb. 21.

The Wake County Democratic Party released a statement in response to HB 99 and condemned it for a lack of transparency, its “unmerited challenge” to Wake County’s local control and “obvious intent” to single out Wake County, The N&O reported.

“In summary, as our commissioners are out working on behalf of Wake County, a Republican member of the NC House files a bill to remove local control of Wake County governance, drastically changing how Wake’s voters elect their Board of Commissioners,” the statement read. “This is nothing other than an extreme NCGOP partisan attempt to suppress votes and assert control over local Wake County affairs.”

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