The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday February 4th

County votes a concern

Chris Weaver banged his fist on the table and jumped out of his seat.

“I won my district,” said the Republican candidate for the Orange County Board of Commissioners at a Tuesday night election party. “All I wanted to do is win my district, and I did it.”

Weaver held up a napkin with precinct returns to prove it.

But those results did not mean Weaver had been elected to office.

He knew an hour earlier that he lost to candidate Renee Price in the general election.

“If the system wasn’t gerrymandered to wag to Chapel Hill, I might be in office,” Weaver said.

Residents of rural Orange County echo Weaver’s concern that the election system is biased toward the more densely populated, liberal-leaning southern half of the county.

About 68 percent of registered Orange County voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, and Weaver received about 29 percent of those votes.

Though Weaver led in District 2 by more than 600 Election Day votes, he fell behind by about 4,150 Election Day votes countywide.

Early voting totals have not been added to the results, a process that could take another 60 days.

There are seven county commissioners in Orange County, none of whom are Republicans.

Three reside in District 1, two reside in District 2, and two are at-large and live anywhere in the county.

Price — who won the District 2 seat, covering all but Chapel Hill and Carrboro, with about 71 percent of the vote — said she doesn’t want to group Orange County residents into liberal Chapel Hill-Carrboro voters and conservative rural voters.

“I really want to look at the votes at each precinct,” she said. “I want to look at the numbers.”

In the primary election, residents vote for the commissioner who seeks to represent their district.

But during the general election, all Orange County voters can cast votes for all candidates.

Many rural voters contend that although they nominate candidates from their district, their general election vote carries little weight because the more populous and left-leaning Chapel Hill-Carrboro area can outvote conservative areas.

“The District 2 candidate has to campaign in District 2 and then, since the second election is at-large, they then have to appeal to the Chapel Hill market,” said Bonnie Hauser, president of Orange County Voice, a rural advocacy organization.

“Chapel Hill, Carrboro and UNC basically control the county elections,” she said. “It does seem that it would be better if District 2 and District 1 had complete control over their primary and election.”

Hauser said it’s especially important that District 2 residents have fair representation because most of the residents don’t have town governments.

“The folks who live in the county really look to county government,” she said.

But Price disagreed, saying the system is fair.

“We have to represent the entire county, so it does make sense,” she said.

She said her stance on transit is a symbol of her inclusivity of the county’s rural residents.

Price said she thinks bus rapid transit would be a better option than the 17.3 mile light rail in the county’s transit plan.

The half-cent sales tax transit tax referendum that will partially fund the light rail was approved in Tuesday’s election 59-41, according to unofficial results.

Most of the support for the referendum came from the Chapel Hill and Carrboro area.

“You’ve got a multimillion dollar project that’s being funded by the county that only a small number of people will use,” she said.

“I can clearly understand why people would be upset.”

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