06/08/11 — Mount Olive forced to delay 2011 election

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Mount Olive forced to delay 2011 election

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 8, 2011 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive Town election scheduled for November will be delayed until next summer or possibly until the 2012 presidential election to allow time to redraw voting district lines.

It will be the first time in 20 years that the lines will have been redrawn.

According to the 2010 Census, the town has lost only 88 residents, not enough to affect the districts. The problem is a population shift in the town that has made District 3 larger than the other three districts, Town Attorney Carroll Turner told town commissioners Monday night.

Former state representative Chris Hagerty of Raleigh has been hired to help in the initial determination of the districts. Hagerty had quoted a price of $1,000, but had billed the town only $728, Turner said.

The next step in the process will be in July when Turner expects to bring a resolution to commissioners to delay the election until 2012. Filing for the election had been scheduled to start next month.

Turner said he would have to meet with the Wayne County Board of Elections to discuss scheduling. There appears to be two options, he said.

One would be to hold the election if a primary is needed next summer, he said. The other would be to have it during the 2012 presidential election.

Over the following months, the board will have maps to look at that would "tweak" the district lines, Turner said. The lines would be changed to put some District 3 residents into other districts.

A public hearing will be required before the board can vote on any changes, possibly by September. The U.S. Department of Justice also has to sign off on any changes, he said.

"The reason the election has to be delayed is all of this cannot possibly be done and get the approval of the Justice Department before filing time would start," Turner said. "Hopefully by January or February we would know if they approve or disapprove. Then everybody will know who can file in what district."

State law requires the municipal elections be held in odd-numbered years, but does provide for exceptions such as this one, Turner said. Whoever wins the next municipal election would only serve the remainder of what would have been a two-year term, he said.

"So you would be elected in either May or June whenever the primary is or in November 2012," Turner said. "Whoever is elected would serve basically about one year

To maintain the federal mandate of one-man, one-vote, each of the town's four districts ideally would have about 1,147 residents each. However, over the past 20 years three of the districts have lost residents, while one -- District 3 represented by George Fulghum -- has made dramatic gains.

Federal law allows for a 10 percent deviation from the ideal number, but in the case of District 3 which has a population of 1,484, the percentage of deviation has topped 42 percent.

The two minority districts, 1, with a population of 1,002 and represented by Kenny Talton, and 2, with a population of 1,006 and represented by Hosea Manley, have lost the most population -- 145 and 141 respectively. District 4, with a population of 1,097 and represented by Gene Lee, has lost 50.

Litigation about 22 years ago forced the town to adopt districts to ensure minority representation on the board.

"Those districts are basically 20 years old," Turner said. "Ten years ago we had a census and we did not do anything. We felt like our districts were in the parameters as described by law, and I hope that they were because we didn't do anything. When we approached the census this time the concern was, that in the case of Mount Olive, it had really been 20 years since our districts were created."

The federal standard is to take the largest district and smallest and determine the disparity between the two, Turner said. That number cannot exceed 10 percent.

"As it turns out, it is 42.02 percent," Turner said. "That tells you we have a problem."