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Chatham will lose with district voting

By Delcenia Turner
Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2006

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Gulf, NC - No one questions that the contentious debate over district voting versus countywide voting is causing bitter divisiveness in Chatham County. The question is, is it really necessary? Both sides feel their reasons for either system are sound and worth standing their ground for. However, it is apparent to this citizen that the proponents of district voting are making a decision on a large scale, complex, life changing issue with less than a clear understanding of the implications and consequences of their preferred choice.

The considerations being overlooked, glossed over, or outright dismissed are certainly not in the best interests of Chatham County. One important consideration being neglected is the disenfranchisement of Chatham County’s African-American and other minority citizens if district voting and subsequently, the redistricting plan are implemented. The “one person, one vote” principle established in the Constitution, was prominently invoked during the 1960’s by the Supreme Court, to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act and to prevent recalcitrant Southern states, including North Carolina, from denying African-Americans their constitutional right to vote through means such as redistricting and switching election methods. How ironic that the same phrase used to enfranchise African-Americans is now being invoked to disenfranchise them.

Nonetheless, those two methods in particular have the same effect today as they did more then 40 years ago; the dilution of minority voting strength and silencing the voice of African-Americans in the decision making process. One close look at the proposed redistricting plan and the figures they have calculated for the new districts make it exceedingly clear. What is being casually dismissed here is that if African-Americans in Chatham County are divested of their voting power, it will have a trickle down effect to all aspects of social contact and ultimately result in a segregated society.

Perhaps the least thought out reason is the one most proclaimed by proponents of district voting, “I will have my commissioner nearer to me.” If I am not mistaken, the standing requirement for running for a commissioner’s seat under the countywide system is that the candidate reside in the district he or she runs to represent. Will that requirement change with district voting? I think not. Further, since a district is comprised of many townships, it is virtually impossible for a commissioner to live in every township at one time. Someone who wants their commissioner “near” them is going to be left out. It is obvious that the options available under district voting are the same options available at present. It would be imprudent to change systems for this reason alone.

Last, but certainly not least, are we, citizens of Chatham County, in control of events, or are events in control of us? We are arguing and reacting like puppets on a string, playing out a drama scripted by commissioners we voted out of office and who, publicly admitted that these distractions of redistricting and changing the election system were contrived as an act of “political revenge.” Their actions have been condemned as “unethical” by a State Board of Elections counsel. Let us not lose our common sense and the remainder of our public dignity playing this game to an ignominious end. Rethink district voting well, Vote “NO” to the referendum in November and keep what we already have.

It works for all of us.

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