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Despite N.C. mandate, Asheville council votes to hold referendum on districts order
Monday, 04 September 2017 15:50

From Staff Reports

Asheville City Council voted unanimously on July 25 to give city residents an opportunity — via a referendum on Nov. 7 — to register whether they favor splitting the city into districts for all six City Council posts — or maintaining the status quo, with council members elected by all citizens.

Council decided to put the question on the ballot, despite being under a mandate from the North Carolina General Assembly to split itself into districts by 2019.

Mayor Esther Manheimer said that council wants “to be able to ask the voters of Asheville if they want districts instead of having Raleigh simply impose districts upon us without having a say.”

If voters reject Senate Bill 285, (aka “Equal Representation for Asheville”), the practical effect could be minimal, since the state law supersedes the will of residents or the council.

 However, other observers have said results from such a referendum could be enough to trigger a lawsuit by the city against the state, as other local governments have done when facing election changes forced by the General Assembly. For instance, Greensboro and Wake County won their cases, reversing state-mandated changes.

The majority Democratic Buncombe County Board of Commissioners was forced into districts by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2011. In that instance, the board did not sue to stop the change.



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