Thursday, June 30, 2016

House Elections Committee: Asheville District Elections

The House Elections Committee approved Senate Bill 897 to elect Asheville City Council by districts on a 17-9 vote Thursday, clearing the way for likely passage by the full House, the last step needed for the bill to become law.

Apodaca: "Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here this morning as we come to the end of this wonderful session. And I'd like to say up front at the beginning of my remarks that the local delegation, other than myself, is not in favor of this bill. So, I want that out front. OK. The reason this bill is before us today is because of the concerns raised by citizens, mainly in south Asheville, that people in south Asheville can't remember a time when they had a representative on city council...If you look at the maps, you'll see clearly that every member of the current council lives in central or north Asheville. The best way to remedy the situation was to create a districting system for the Asheville city council.

Eight of the 10 most populous cities in North Carolina use some type of districting system to elect their city councils. Asheville would become the 9th. This method is not new or novel. It is commonplace and considered a best practice across the state for ensuring geographic diversity of representation throughout a city. This map was not drawn on creating political advantage. If you survey the political statistics associated with the map, you will see that every district has elected more Democrats than Republicans. The map was drawn to create geographic diversity, to balance population according to the legal requirements, and to keep precincts together when possible.

I have been asked to consider allowing a referendum on the plan. I will not and there is a simple reason why: If Asheville were allowed a referendum, I have no doubt that the current council would work to defeat it. The current council is satisfied by a system that suits their political interest while denying people who don't live in central Asheville a voice on the council.

This is merely a test run. In 2019, a new plan will go completely into effect for one election cycle. If the council and the people of Asheville decide that they prefer to return to the old system, they may do so after the return of the 2020 census.

The system is also not unique. Six counties, including Buncombe, are currently under a moratorium on changing their form of government that will expire upon the return of the next census.

This bill is an attempt to ensure that all people of Asheville have representation on city council. It adds Asheville to the overwhelming majority of cities its size who already use a similar system of elections. It applies to one election cycle. After that, the people of Asheville are free to remake their form of government.

I hope those future choices will be made by all people and not a select few who live in favored parts of town. This bill will make that possible and I ask for your support."


Asheville District Elections Map (showing current council members)

Asheville District Elections Timeline

Asheville District Elections in Redistricting Committee

Pete Kaliner on Asheville District Elections

Asheville City Council Spanked in Raleigh, Voter Integrity Project