Candidates begin filing after injunction halts redistrictingYasmine Regester
Staff Writer / July 30, 2015
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Candidate filing opened for the 2015 City of Greensboro Municipal Elections this week after a judge granted a permanent injunction on Greensboro’s controversial redistricting bill.
Judge Catherine Eagles granted an injunction halting a redistricting plan sponsored by state Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) that would redraw district lines and alter city elections. At a hearing Thursday, July 23, Eagles determined that parts of the law violated both state and U.S. Constitutions when it stripped Greensboro of the right to change the city’s municipal government by referendum. That part of the law makes Greensboro the only municipality in the state without that ability.
The law passed by the General Assembly on July 2 increased the city districts from five to eight, eliminated at-large seats, took away the mayor’s ability to vote except in the case of a tie and personnel matters, increased member terms from two to four years, reset candidate filing dates, and moved the general election to October, with a November runoff if needed.
The permanent injunction keeps the current council structure and district maps in place for the 2015 Municipal Elections. Judge Eagles ordered that a trial on the law take place before the 2017 elections.
Earl Jones, a member of Greensboro Citizens for Fair Elections, the group of citizens who voiced their opposition of the city’s lawsuit against the redistricting law, stated that there will be legal action taken by the group to defend the law.
“Let’s be clear. The judges ruling was not about redistricting, it was about practicality. The city still has to be able to draw districts to annex property into the city, so now it becomes an issue about efficient operation of government,” said Jones.
A former State Representative, Jones said the General Assembly could simply add a correction to the already passed law so that it addresses the judge’s concerns on the bill.
On Monday, July 27, incumbent council members Sharon Hightower, Jamal Fox, Marikay Abuzuaiter, Yvonne Johnson and Mayor Nancy Vaughan filed to run in the 2015 Municipal Elections. Additional candidates filing for election at press time were Brian Hoss – At-Large, T. Dianne Bellamy-Small – District 1 and Thessa Pickett – District 2.
“I am excited to know this mess has been resolved for now. We now know what we need to do to campaign and educate the community on what is going on,” said Hightower. “We have our differences (council members), but we don’t let those differences overshadow our work for the people of Greensboro.”
Fox said he was happy with the judge’s ruling. “It’s a great feeling but it’s not over. The battle is won but the war is not over. I’m pretty sure there will be a push from a faction in Raleigh that are still interested in those eight districts.”
Although it was a victory for Greensboro, some council members still believe that the General Assembly will try to get another redistricting bill passed.
With Senate Bill 36 still in the Rules Committee, it could be brought back, but N.C. House Representative Ralph Johnson doesn’t believe it will. “For this session, in my opinion, it’s a dead issue. I feel that the judge recognized the fact that some of the changes, the non-voting mayor, and taking away the citizens’ right to referendum, was more than what would be allowed under the state constitution,” said Johnson.
Candidate filing ends on August 7. The next City Council meeting will be on August 3.