Is it time for Chatham County to implement district voting?

by Mike Pool

Pittsboro, NC – A group of concerned voters reviewed the petition circulated by Franklin Flores to have his name placed on the ballot as unaffiliated candidate. Our concern is not with the candidate but the process.

Chatham County, NC districts

This is what we found:

  • 2148 signatures came from voters in the county, the required number to have his name placed on the ballot as a candidate in District 5. Since we elect commissioners using the At Large Method any registered voter in the county could sign the petition.
  • 209 of those signatures came from District 5 voters located on the South West part of the county. This is the district the candidate would represent and the district he received the least amount of signatures. If Chatham County elected commissioners using the By District method, 209 signatures would not have met the requirements to have his name placed on the ballot.
  • 1096 signatures came from District 1 which is located in the North East part of the county. District 1 voters provided the candidate running in District 5 the most signatures and the total represents ½ the required signatures need to have his name placed on the ballot.
  • 988 signatures come from District 3 voters.
  • 319 signature come from District 4 voters.

Chatham County does not track election results by the five commissioner districts but instead by precincts and three to five of our 18 precincts determine the commissioners that represent Chatham. Based on this you might wonder how a Republican has maintained the District 5 seat. This is because the Democratic Party did not run a candidate in District 5 in its last two election cycles so, the Republican received 100% of the vote. Had a Democrat run in District 5 in these two cycles it would be a safe bet that it would be represented by a Democrat.

This assumption is also supported by the fact that, District 1 has twice the amount of registered voters than District 5.

The last thing discovered is District 1 has more registered voters than population. The Director of Elections and I discussed to my satisfaction and some of it can be explained with growth but still an issue all parties should be aware of.

Chatham County, NC voting precincts

So based on our findings, the question for the board is how do we move forward looking at voting methods that provide all 18 precincts or all five districts with representation? The county should not allow a voting method
that allows three to five precincts to determine all five county commissioners. What if anything can this board do about the unbalanced method to elect commissioners for the upcoming election and will the board review election methods for future elections?

Mike Pool, a Chatham County resident, presented this information during the public input session of the Chatham County Commissioners meeting on June 15, 2020.