STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON MAY 2, 2001
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at 3:00 p.m. in the Commissioners= Conference Room of the Henderson County Office Building at 100 North King Street, Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Those present were: Chairman Bill Moyer, Vice-Chair Marilyn Gordon, Commissioner Grady Hawkins, Commissioner Don Ward, Commissioner Charlie Messer, County Attorney Angela S. Beeker, and Clerk to the Board Elizabeth W. Corn.
Also present were: Elections Supervisor Beverly Cunningham and G.I.S. Coordinator Dan Madding.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Moyer called the meeting to order and welcomed those in attendance. He stated that the purpose of this meeting was to get everything out on the table with respect to the issue of redistricting, all the legal issues involved, etc. He also stated, for background purposes, they would try to get all the various past proposals that have been presented. He stated that if the Board wanted to do this for this election cycle, they have to get going and make a decision. He stated that the districts are badly out of line.
Angela Beeker distributed copies of applicable bills and reviewed our current structure with the Board. The current legislation in place regarding the structure of the Board of Commissioners (Chapter 861 of the 1973 Session Laws). That law says that there will be five Commissioners with staggered four year terms, there will be five residence districts and they are described in the statute. The law says that candidates for office must reside in those districts and be qualified voters. The candidates from each district must be nominated and elected by the voters of the county as a whole (elected at large) and if there is a vacancy, that vacancy will be filled by the executive committee of the political party of the vacating member.
Ms. Beeker reminded the Board that in 1998 Henderson County was added to the Moore County Bill. This law says that in Henderson County if the Board of Commissioners determines that there is a substantial inequality of population of residents in the districts as they are, then the Board can change the districts to make them more nearly equal. You can=t look at voters, you must look at population.
Ms. Beeker stated that there are a number of counties in the State that are under a mandatory redistricting this year because they are elected under an electoral process where only the districts elect the Commissioner. There are 40 counties that are having to undergo that. There is a 10% rule that is used for electoral districts. It is not binding on Henderson County but it might be one method the Board could use to determine whether there is substantial inequality of population for our residence districts. The 10% rules basically says that you take the total population and divide it by the number of districts and that gives you the ideal size of a district. Then you take your existing districts, the largest one and the smallest one and you calculate the percentage that it differs from that ideal district and if the total of the percentages for the largest and smallest are more than 10% then you can say you=ve got a substantial inequality of population. That is just one method that has been tested in the courts for electoral districts to meet the test for inequality of population. This law says that the redistricting would not affect sitting members that are not up for re-election. The resolution would have to state which seats are to be filled at the initial election held under the resolution.
A certified copy of the resolution has to be filed within 10 days after its effective date with the Secretary of State=s office and the Board of Elections and with the Register of Deeds office.
Ms. Beeker stated that the Board cannot reduce the number of districts from five to three under the laws as they are currently. There had previously been some discussion about reducing the number of districts. The law does not allow the Board to appoint members at large either. Anything more than moving the existing district boundary lines would require local legislation.
She offered some suggestions for redistricting (from a workshop she had attended):
1. Districts should be contiguous
2. Compactness is important (how close the district is together)
3. To the extent possible they recommend that you honor other government boundaries and if possible follow precinct boundaries
4. To the extent possible they recommend that you follow natural boundaries
5. If possible, do not split census blocks
6. There=s nothing wrong (legally) with considering where incumbents live
There was some discussion regarding census data and Dan Madding informed the Board that Henderson County has 20 census tracts. A census tract is supposed to be between 2,000 and 4,000 people. The census tracts are broken down into census blocks, which can be as small as 2-3 structures or they can be much larger and the census blocks follow our precinct lines.
The official date for releasing the census information in North Carolina got pushed back and pushed back. It was officially April 1. Mr. Madding was asked what his best estimate was of us getting new census figures. He stated probably not in the next 60 days.
A hand-out was distributed by Mr. Madding of census blocks with our current precincts. I did not get a copy.
Commissioner Hawkins stated that the delta between District III and District IV is much more than 10%, based on information he had dated April 1999. There is a significant difference between the districts.
Chairman Moyer asked that the Board look at what has been proposed in the past. There have been several proposals.
Mr. Nicholson stated that in 1996, then Commissioner J. Michael Edney offered a proposal to change districts. In November the Board held a public hearing and received public comments. There was a request to change the legislation. His proposal was based on number of voters, not residents.
A second proposal was in 1997 from a Board of Elections Study. Beverly Cunningham distributed copies. I did not get one. She reviewed the 2002 map with the Board.
Ms. Cunningham stressed that precinct lines and district lines are two different things.
Ms. Cunningham stated that the main thing the Board of Elections would like, is if the Board decides to use precinct lines that they still continue to elect Commissioners at large (county-wide).
Ms. Cunningham reminded the Board that the non-partisan committee who met and did a Precinct Review by consensus recommended that there be no change in electing Commissioners in Henderson County, including district lines.
Another proposal - Chairman Moyer had put a proposal on the table in May of 2000 of going to three districts with two Commissioners being elected at large. Problems have already been mentioned with moving this year with that approach.
Another proposal - Chairman Moyer asked if anyone else had a proposal to offer. If anyone has a proposal, he asked that they get it to the Board as soon as possible so they can have some time to review it.
Commissioner Hawkins definitely felt that redistricting needs to be addressed, numbers have changed because of growth in our county. Comparisons show districts are out of balance. If the Board takes action, there needs to be a snapshot of the county population-wise at that point in time. He used the multiple of 2.4 in coming up with his figures and map. He had used Mike Edney=s model as a base.
Chairman Moyer stated the need to develop some ground rules:
1. There needs to be a general agreement that there is inequality of population in our five districts, that needs to be corrected. (unanimous agreement)
2. In starting to redraw boundary lines, initially use precinct boundary lines. (unanimous
3. Even though we don=t have perfect data, agree to use the residential units in the new
precincts with a people factor to get a rough but good idea of how the population will fall if redistricting is done and then verify that to be sure we=re OK when we get the final census data. (agreement)
Chairman Moyer stated that if the Board wants to do anything this year, they would have to stay with the five districts. There had previously been some discussion of going to three districts.
Commissioner Hawkin=s proposal
Commissioner Hawkins referred back to the map where he had looked for a distribution of about 16,000 in each precinct. He used data he had gotten from the Board of Elections. He showed the Board a large colored map and explained which precincts would be in which district as follows with the delta between the least populated district and the most populated district being 381 people:
District I (burgundy on the map) would include Green River, East Flat Rock, Hendersonville II, Moore=s Grove, Flat Rock, Armory, Crab Creek and Southeast and included 16,207 people.
District IV (blue on the map) would include N. Blue Ridge, Clear Creek, South Blue Ridge, Edneyville, Bat Cave, Northeast, and Raven Rock and included 15,941 people.
District II (bright green on the map) would include Hoopers Creek, Park Ridge, Fletcher, Grimesdale, Long John Mtn., North Mills River, and Northwest and included 16,263 people.
District III (olive green on the map) would include Rugby, South Mills River, Pisgah View, Hendersonville I and III and Brickton and included 15,965 people.
District V (purple on the map) would include Atkinson, Bowman=s Bluff, Etowah Valley, Laurel Park, Southwest, and Horse Shoe and included 16,322 people.
Commissioner Hawkins presented his above proposal to the Board for consideration.
Commissioner Ward=s proposal
Commissioner Ward had a slightly different proposal, stating only two of his districts differed from Commissioner Hawkins= proposal. His map was not colored and therefore it was harder to follow. He tried to keep the districts close to what they are currently. He stated that Commissioner Hawkin=s proposal was so close to his, to just ignore his and use Commissioner Hawkins= proposal.
Commissioner Hawkins stated that he felt we would not get better data in time for use on redistricting this year.
Chairman Moyer asked the Board to aim to have this finished and as an action item for the mid-June Commissioners= meeting. The Board needs all pieces to review/study prior to that time.
Commissioner Messer made the motion to adjourn at approximately 4:13 p.m. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Elizabeth W. Corn, Clerk to the Board William L. Moyer, Chairman