Chatham County Commissioner Election Task Force says earliest date for public referendum should be 2020

Pittsboro, NC – In a report to be presented to the Chatham County commissioners at their July 16 board meeting, the Commissioner Election Task Force will recommend that that any public referendum to increase the number of commissioners should be held off until 2020. Along with looking at redistricting the county, the task force is also evaluating the pros and cons of changing the voting for commissioners to a combination of at-large voting and individual district voting.

The task force agreed that they would need more than two meetings to make a formal recommendation to the commissioners.

The Chatham County Commissioner Election task force is currently in the process of asking residents to provide feedback on the following three options:

1. Residency Districts

This is the current election method where commissioners must reside within a district, but are elected at large by all county voters.

Example: To run for a seat representing District A, Candidate Smith must live in that district, but all Chatham voters will be able to decide who wins that seat.

2. Voting Districts

All county commissioners would have to reside in a district and would be elected by only the voters of the district. No seats would be elected by voters at-large.

Example: To run for a seat representing District A, Candidate Smith must live in that district AND only voters in District A can vote to decide who represents District A.

3. Combination

In this option, two commissioners would be elected at large with no residency requirement, while five would live in districts and by elected by voters in their district.

Example: Candidate Smith, who is running for District A, must live in District A and only voters in those districts decide who is elected. However, Candidate Jones is running for one of the two at-large seats, which means she can live anywhere in the county and all county voters decide who wins the seat.

Below is the copy of the recommendation that was attached to the agenda items for Monday’s commissioner meeting.

Commissioner Election Task Force: Report to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners

The Commissioner Election Task Force is actively evaluating all options for election process and board composition. The process is being guided by two trained and qualified facilitators from two different counties. We have reflectively considered the task with which have been charged and have been collecting historical information to use in decision making.
We have had a presentation of options that can be considered, as well as a presentation by Bob Joyce from the UNC School of Government. Based off of North Carolina law and procedures, we have been examining and exploring all five options that are available to any county in the state to use as a voting method, in addition to the number of commissioners on the board.
We have gone through facilitated exercises as a group to gather input, assess questions and identify information the we need to gather for consideration.
We have discussed methods for seeking public input. We have agreed that we will have a structured format for public comment and currently have an online input form open. We are continuing to discuss the next steps for gathering public input.
We have had very positive dialogue. We have a task force that is working collaboratively and that is focused on the citizens of the county as a whole.
As a task force, we have agreed that we needed more than 2 meetings to make a formal recommendation to the board of commissioners. By not making a recommendation now, the earliest opportunity for this to appear as a referendum would be in 2020. We were advised by Bob Joyce of the UNC School of Government regarding the timing of referendums, legal requirements regarding redistricting, and following the proper procedures to appear on a referendum ballot. It is apparent, at this point, in order to make this as fair to the public as possible, it will not be able to be present on the 2018 ballot.
We encourage the public to provide comment and input via the online form and we will provide notification as soon as the task force as organized other opportunities for input.
We thank the Chatham County Board of Commissioners for the opportunity to work collaboratively on this process and to provide an eventual recommendation that reflect the needs of the citizens.
Respectfully submitted,
Peyton Holland
Chair, Election Task Force
Sara Lambert
Co-Vice Chair
Sarah D’Amato
Co-Vice Chair