Stallings delays redistricting until after election

Mar. 16, 2013 @ 05:09 PM

The topic of redistricting Stallings will not be discussed until after this year’s election. 

The subject has been discussed on and off since 2007. Council members thought they would have to change the districts after the 2010 census, but learned that since they are residential and not based on population, the districts did not have to change.

At a planning conference, the council identified the redistricting as something they would do before the next election, Mayor Lynda Paxton said. 

“Apparently some council members have had a change of heart since then,” Paxton said. “The last discussion we had, the decision was not to make any changes in the voting districts before the election.” 

Council member Fred Weber made the motion to end the discussion and postpone the redistricting until after the election. 

Weber declined comment on Wednesday afternoon, saying that he has discussed it at several meetings and will not discuss it further. He added that he is willing to discuss it next year. 

Four council member seats and the mayor’s seat are open in the upcoming election. Currently, District 1 has 727 homes, District 2 has 475 homes, District 3 has 894 homes, District 4 has 901 homes, District 5 has 1,086 homes and District 6 has 1,089 homes, according to an e-mail from Paxton.

With residency districts, the candidate must live within the district they represent, however, all members of the town may vote for each council member, similar to an at-large seat, Robert Joyce, a professor with the University of North Carolina School of Government, explained. 

When the districts are first established, they must be approximately equal in population, however, there is no requirement to redraw the districts as the population changes. If a municipality decides to redistrict, they must redraw the districts to make the population sizes in each district roughly even. 

There are two different ways to redistrict, Joyce explained, the most direct way is to have the General Assembly of North Carolina pass a local act redrawing the districts for the municipality. The town can also make the changes on their own and can follow the options laid out in the North Carolina General Statute 160A-101. 

Redistricting in residency districts is not “terribly common,” Joyce said. It usually comes about during an annexation if the council recognizes that the boundaries are disproportionate. It is rarer that it happens on its own.

Paxton believes the reluctance to redistrict is due to the upcoming election.

“Clearly it’s politically motivated,” Paxton said. “We have a big election coming up this year...obviously the majority voted to avoid any changes until after this election and I think it’s to give them a little bit of a favored position as incumbents.” 

Paxton said she has heard from residents that they would like the districts to be balanced, though Weber said he had heard the opposite.

“I’m very disappointed,” Paxton said. “I think it is the right thing to do. We may not be legally required to do it, but ethically and morally, we need to balance the districts.” 

However, for now, the redistricting discussion is over. 

“I think it’s a done deal at this point,” Paxton said.