Wake County’s lone Republican state legislator said Monday that she and the Democrat-led Board of Commissioners have reached a compromise on a bill that would change the way commissioners are elected in the state’s most populous county.
The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Erin Paré, would require Wake County commissioners to be elected by district, rather than by county as a whole. Under the compromise, Commissioner elections would remain partisan and two new “at-large” seats would be established, bringing the number on the board to nine.
Each of the seven current board members, all of whom are Democrats, represent one of the seven county commissioner districts, but the entire county currently votes for each seat. The existing process, Paré said, allows the population centers of Raleigh and Cary to drown out the voices of suburban and rural residents.
“I am very pleased that Wake County commissioners have come to the table and agreed to have county-level representation,” said Paré. “This is the right thing to do for the people.”
The local bill, which is not subject to a government veto, would not change the district lines approved by the committee in 2021. The house rules committee will debate the bill on Tuesday.
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Wake County commissioners have reached a compromise on the election law that will change the way commissioners are elected in the county.
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It would make Wake’s election process consistent with Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, and Cumberland counties, which elect their commissioners through a combination of public and district seats. Wake County had a population of 1.15 million in mid-2021, according to census estimates.
The board had opposed Paré’s original proposal, which would also have made the county’s method of election a nonpartisan plurality with no runoff, unlike all 99 other North Carolina counties, which elect commissioners in partisan elections.
Wake County government spokesperson Dara Demi said the board agreed to the compromise once the “most concerning elements of the original legislation were removed.”
She noted that a requirement to hold nonpartisan plurality elections would have resulted in no primaries and no guarantee that a candidate would have received more than 50% of the vote.