Duplin County new electoral districts

Duplin County new electoral districts as approved by the Board of County Commissioners and Board of Education.

KENANSVILLE — The County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to approve the redistricting of Duplin County during the Board of Commissioners meeting and public hearing on Nov. 15.

“The new districts have been approved by resolution by both the Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Education,” said Davis Brinson, County manager.

“Barring any unforeseen events or litigation, the new electoral districts will be used beginning with the primary election scheduled to take place in March 2022,” he said.

The new electoral districts will be used to elect members to the Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Education.

The redistricting process was a collaborative effort between the Board of Commissioners, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the County Attorney, the County Manager, and Rep. Jimmy Dixon, who offered the assistance and expertise of the General Assembly’s staff in redrawing the electoral districts and developing a redistricting plan that was satisfactory to all the involved parties.

“The next step will be for block assignment files to be sent to the Duplin County Board of Elections and the Tax Office’s GIS Division as soon as possible,” said Brinson.

“These are electronic text files of Census data that will be used to determine in which district individual voters reside.

“If it is determined that it is necessary then, the County Attorney will further be authorized to seek approval of this plan by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina since a 2014 federal court order required that the districts be adjusted if necessary after the 2020 census.

The goal of the 2014 federal court order is to maintain districts that are equal in population.

Robert Moore, Duplin County Chapter of NAACP president, addressed everyone in attendance and spoke about the purpose of the public hearing and the important considerations and guidelines that must be followed during the process. He also explained Duplin’s five electoral districts that coincide with the County Commissioners and the Board of Education.

“I want to thank you for meeting us at the table on this monumental occasion because we came together for the good of the citizens of Duplin County,” Moore said as he addressed county officials and introduced attorney Allison Riggs, with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Riggs conducted an educational presentation to educate the public on the redistricting process and the new voting district map.

According to Riggs, census data from the 2020 census for Duplin County showed a significant population loss and showed that the overall deviations were 16.8 %, the new map dramatically reduces deviations down to 4% overall.

“Compared to the current map it reduces split precincts, there were nine split precincts in the previous map and eight in this one,” said Riggs. “And keeps the same number of municipalities.”

After the presentation, Tim Wilson, County Attorney thanked Dixon for getting the ball rolling and providing a starting point for the collaboration between all involved parties.

“Mr. Dixon arranged for us to go to Raleigh and meet at his office with his resources, they had the software and licensing up there,” said Wilson.

“He was instrumental in getting us to where we are, and perhaps more importantly he was instrumental in saving a lot of money for the county.”

Wilson explained that thanks to Dixon, the county saved more than $20,000 as that was the baseline front-end cost they were looking at for the process.

“And that was if everything went perfectly and if you didn’t have to do extra maps,” he added. “So that was a big cost saving for the county and one that I think should be recognized.

“We’re able to ultimately reconfigure it in a way that was satisfactory and most important like Allison pointed out — legal,” Wilson said.

The County Attorney thanked everyone who collaborated in the redistricting process and gave a special thank you to the County Commissioners.

“I thought they handled it with a professional open-mindedness, more so than I ever could’ve even dream or ask for,” said Wilson. “As you can see, we got a diverse board. They don’t all look the same, they don’t all come from the same backgrounds, they don’t all think the same way or agree upon everything… “What you do have here, is five intelligent guys, who at the end of the day, they’ve all got the same common goal of doing good for Duplin County.”

He commended their ability to “put aside some of the divisive and controversial things that you see on the news when it comes to this topic,” said Wilson.

“I think these guys did a good job of setting all that to the side and handling it with respect and dignity as they treated each other and approached each other and also as they approached the other side and Mr. Brinson and me as well.”

“It truly was a non-partisan collaborative effort by everybody in the room and we were pleased with that,” said Wilson.

Ena Sellers may be reached at esellers@ncweeklies.com