Published: Nov 12, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 12, 2012 12:36 PM
CHAPEL HILL - District 2 commissioners candidate Chris Weaver hoisted his 5-by-7-foot message along local roadways last week: “Weaver wins District 2. Thanks!”
But he won’t join the commissioners when new members take their seats in December.
Weaver, a Republican, ran against Democrat Renee Price in the general election and lost by 30,148 votes.
In a count of just District 2 precinct voters on Election Day, however, he won by several hundred votes. The final tally for precinct voting won’t be in until mid-December, after the Board of Elections counts all 50,437 one-stop and absentee ballots.
Weaver said the district results are proof the county’s system is weighted against rural voters, he said.
“A lot of people in rural Orange County just got ripped off. Their vote didn’t mean anything,” Weaver said.
He plans to meet this week with supporters and fellow Republicans Mary Carter and Dave Carter, who lost their commissioners and N.C. Senate races, respectively.
Price said she saw Weaver’s sign Wednesday as he and his son waved to Hillsborough drivers.
The election system “is just the reality of it at this point and time,” she said.
“I think someone running a good campaign, no matter what your party, could win,” Price said.
The county’s two-district system allows only district residents to vote in their district’s primaries but all county voters to choose the winners at large in the general election.
A 2006 voter referendum created the two-district system and expanded the county board to seven members: three in District 1, two in District 2 and two at-large.
The change was sparked by a 1,200-signature petition that claimed ”the large city and urban population in and around Chapel Hill and Carrboro control the (countywide) electoral process while the more rural areas of the county lack the population to elect someone from their areas.”
Commissioner Barry Jacobs said the debate has continued since at least the 1960s, when northern Orange dominated the vote. They crafted the current plan to create balance, he said.
Commissioners Chairwoman Bernadette Pelissier said District 2 has more representation than it appears, because four commissioners – she, Jacobs, Steve Yuhasz and Earl McKee – live there.
McKee said his 2010 primary race against Price was “hard and close,” but running as a Democrat did help in the general election.
“The sheer numbers of Democratic vs. Republican voters gave me an edge in the election,” he said.
However, he would have no objection if Weaver sought a change to strict district representation.
“If he wished to start a petition, then we will have that discussion,” McKee said.
Jacobs warned that more county residents live in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, so the “one man, one vote” rule could result in more urban influence. Rural voters do have a say in who represents them now, he said.
“I personally believe (changes) will only heighten the level of frustration,” Jacobs said.