The Wake County Board of Commissioners tonight approved two measures regarding local elections – the adjustment of residential districts based on 2020 Census data and the restoration of four-year staggered terms for board members following the sunset of a related state statute.
Commissioners asked residents to weigh in on the proposed changes in person at public hearings or online at wakegov.com/districtmapping. During a two-week public comment period, the board received nine online comments and heard from three residents during two public hearings.
“We greatly appreciate the feedback we received from Wake County residents on these important topics,” said Commission Chair Matt Calabria. “As a board, we consider the public’s input invaluable when making any decision affecting Wake County residents. We’ve read every online submission and listened to every in-person comment.”
Census-Related Residential District Adjustments
Each of Wake County’s seven county commissioners represents the entire county and is elected countywide, with each voter having an opportunity to vote in every race. However, as with several other counties in the state, each commissioner must live in one of seven different residential districts.
North Carolina law allows counties to adjust the districts in which their commissioners live after a census to ensure the population is balanced. In August, Wake County received updated population figures based on the 2020 Census. Nonpartisan staff used that data to make recommendations on how to adjust each residential district so that the populations are balanced within 5% of each other. As each commissioner is elected countywide, the adjustment of district lines does not affect any commissioner’s electorate.
The districts were last adjusted in 2011, after the 2010 Census. Since that time, the county’s population has increased by 25%. If the county didn’t make adjustments to account for the additional 228,000 people who now call Wake County home, residential districts would be unbalanced.
Tonight, the commissioners voted to move forward with staff’s recommendations on how to adjust the geographic boundaries of the seven residential districts.
Learn more about what the changes mean for residents, including how district populations will change and which voting precincts will be reassigned, here.
Four-Year Staggered Terms
The Board of Commissioners also ratified that service on the Board will return to four-year staggered terms.
Wake County began electing its Board of Commissioners on staggered terms in 1981. In 2015, the N.C. General Assembly modified the Board of Commissioners’ system of elections and increased the member seats to nine, but the districts as drawn were ruled unconstitutional in the Wright v. Wake County Board of Elections lawsuit.
The Consent Order entered in Wright ordered the Board of Elections to conduct the 2018 and 2020 elections for all seven members at the same time and for two-year terms—or until the NC General Assembly adopted another redistricting plan—but no later than the return of the 2020 Census. The statute at issue in that lawsuit also returned authority over the county’s elections system after the release of the 2020 Census.
With that data now available, and as part of the district mapping process, the board today voted to restore the election of commissioners to four-year staggered terms. Consistent with the system last affirmed by the Commission in 2011, commissioners from Districts 1, 2, 3 and 7 will be up for election countywide in 2022, and districts 4, 5 and 6 up for election countywide in 2024.