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A fair and reasonable proposal?

By Roland McReynolds
Posted Tuesday, October 31, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - Many Chatlist proponents of Bunkey's redistricting scheme claim it's a "fair" and "reasonable" way to make sure Chatham's Board of Commissioners (BOC) has representation from all areas of the county. These proponents don't offer much factual substantiation to show what's fair or reasonable about Bunkey's scheme. Instead they talk in abstractions, without addressing the fact that this proposal is for more than just voting by district, it's about ratifying Bunkey's new version of the districts. So here are some facts.

1. Bunkey's scheme redraws boundaries to create BOC districts with grossly unequal populations. There are 10,000 registered voters in the new district 1 (in the northeast) and the 4,500 in the new district 4, where Bunkey allegedly lives. Bunkey's district-only voting scheme means the votes of district 4 residents will count for more than twice as much as those of district 1 residents. Is this fair and reasonable?

2. Bunkey's scheme was drawn up by a team with no representation from the northeast part of the county, even though 40% of the county's population lives there. Is this fair and reasonable?

3. A fair and reasonable redistricting plan would ensure that every sitting commissioner who has been elected by the majority of voters to serve the county would have the chance to run for reelection. It would not draw the lines to force a commissioner off the Board because doing so would be flouting the will of the majority that elected that commissioner in the first place. Bunkey's scheme puts two of Bunkey's political opponents, George Lucier and Patrick Barnes, in the same district, robbing Barnes of the chance to run for re-election. And it puts another of Bunkey's opponents, Carl Thompson, an African-American, in the only part of the county where the majority of voters has never supported a winning African-American BOC candidate. Is this fair and reasonable?

4. The Association to Defend Chatham's Heritage, the special interest group campaigning for Bunkey's scheme, distributes literature to voters in the western part of the county arguing in favor of the scheme because it will "stop the North and Northeast from controlling Chatham." There's even a big sign near Silk Hope that says so in large, bold, underlined letters. But when they mail postcards to voters in the North and East, the Heritage defenders don't mention regional identity at all, and simply promise that the scheme is "fair." Does this two-faced approach tell you anything about whether Bunkey's scheme is fair & reasonable?

5. A fair and reasonable redistricting plan would be developed by leaders with a convincing mandate from the public, would be subjected to extensive public input before going on the ballot, and would not be concocted in the middle of an election cycle by commissioners who were just voted out of office.

Bunkey's scheme was concocted in the middle of an election cycle by his political allies, was approved by him and his crew after their defeat in the May primary, was developed over the course of a few hours in meetings inaccessible to most members of the public, and was put on the ballot after exactly fourteen days of public review. Is this fair & reasonable?

There may be a time and place in the future for Chatham County to consider equalizing the populations in BOC districts or make other changes in our electoral process. It's plain, however, that this redistricting plot threatens our local democracy, harms our community, and jeopardizes the integrity of our government. It's the wrong plan, offered by the wrong people, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. And it's not fair or reasonable.

Vote no on district voting.

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