Voting options to be studied
Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Some worry about impact on minorities
By NIKIE MAYO
Beaufort County commissioners voted 5-2 Monday to take a look at the way they get elected and possibly change it.
They approved a study by a political science professor to determine if blacks have just as much chance of being elected if voters choose two commissioners per election cycle.
Under the present system, each voter chooses one commissioner per election cycle. The top three or four vote-getters are put in office, depending on the number of open board seats.
It’s a method that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of newly elected Commissioner Al Klemm, who was chosen to fill a slot on the board in November 2006.
Commissioners Ed Booth and Jerry Langley opposed the study, saying that changing the voting method will be harmful to black candidates.
Theodore Arrington, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said he could show that changing voting procedures should not affect black candidates. That study is not to exceed $15,000, but may cost only $4,000, depending on the number of trips Arrington has to make to Beaufort County.
The U.S. Department of Justice must approve changes to voting methods in “covered” districts. Beaufort County is a district covered under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is designed to ensure no discrimination during the voting process.
Commissioner Stan Deatherage said he’s convinced Beaufort County residents want to change the way they elect their leaders.