Buncombe County residents may get the chance to vote on electing the Board of Commissioners by district (with a larger board too). At their Aug. 5 meeting, the commissioners will decide whether or not to put district elections on the ballot in November.
Currently, all four commissioners (and the chair) are elected at-large, by all voters in the county, with the top four vote-getters taking the seats. The resolution briefly states possible positives and negatives to the current system, and to dividing the county into different districts, each with one commissioner.
Some of the positive points to district elections (cited in the resolution) can include better minority representation, ensuring that all areas are represented and giving voters a direct voice for their concerns. The resolution also cites some possible negatives, including high-population areas receiving less representation between censuses, confusion about district boundaries and commissioners pursuing measures less likely to benefit the entire county.
By law, all districts would have to be of roughly equal population and redrawn after every census.
Board Chair Nathan Ramsey, who placed the item on the agenda, said that he hopes the board will approve it, whatever their individual opinions on district elections.
“It’s really not about whether they think it’s a good idea, but whether the voters do,” he told Xpress. He added that the exact terms for the proposed districts would have to be worked out, but it would probably mean increasing the number of the board to seven, with the commissioners choosing the chair, instead of chair being a separate elected office. Staggered terms are another possibility (all commissioners are currently elected at the same time).
“It’s about time the voters had a say in how their board was made up,” Ramsey said. “There hasn’t been a major change in how commissioners are elected in 30 years.”
— David Forbes, staff writer