Limited-voting panel begins taskPublished 6:45pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The Beaufort County Limited Voting Committee spent part of its meeting Tuesday discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as it looks for a way to change the way county commissioners are elected.
The committee has been charged with exploring options to the limited-voting method used in Beaufort County. That method was imposed in the county a little more than 20 years ago after a federal court ruled minorities did not have a fair chance to elect commissioners.
Under the limited-voting method, a voter may vote for only one candidate during an election to choose county commissioners.
Before discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1964, committee Chairman Gary Brinn, a new commissioner, read the committee’s mission statement: “The current ‘limited voting’ method of electing Beaufort County commissioners has come under fire by a sizable portion of the electorate. It shall be the mission of this committee to synthesize the feelings of the electorate as to the desirability and feasibility of changing the method. This committee will examine various alternative methods of electing county commissioners while ensuring adequate minority and demographic representation.”
Brinn explained why the Voting Rights Act was discussed.
“I felt it to be very important for us to all understand the voting rights act of 1965. When the county was sued and the method changed, this was a major part of why we have the current method of electing commissioners,” Brinn said. “It was also very interesting to see on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing next week Shelby County, Ala., versus Holder. This case was brought by Shelby County near Birmingham, and it contends that the act has outlived its purpose of protecting minority voters. Several justices have already indicated that the act is unconstitutional. So it will indeed be interesting to see how this plays out in the US Supreme Court over the next few months. Should the act be done away with, Beaufort County will be able to make our own decision locally on how we elect our commissioners without interference from the federal government.”
Brinn then directed the committee to read the 2003 study done on this issue. He asked committee members to report back on the pros and cons of the proposal from that study.
Brinn said, “We are going to look at the 2003 and 2007 stud(ies) and find what could work from these studies. Then, when we are done, have our 2013 proposal submitted to the commissioners for consideration.”
Committee member Greg Dority said, “It’s refreshing to see an elected official follow through on his campaign promise. I am confident that Commissioner Brinn’s leadership will generate a more fair and balanced method of electing our county commissioners. Right now, there is tremendous desire by the people to see what is perceived as an unfair voting method replaced with a system that is more equitable.”
The committee meets again March 21.