Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Tonight Watauga County Fights Back Against Sen. Hise


Last fall on October 25, Senator Ralph Hise's local bill changing the voting districts for the Watauga County Commission -- and the way its members will be elected, starting this fall -- sailed through the General Assembly with its Republican super-majorities. Hise's bill created five new commissioner districts with three of them gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Every current County Commissioner -- two Republicans and three Democrats -- was put on the record in a public meeting saying they had no conversation with Sen. Hise about this piece of legislation. Believe that, if you can. No public hearing notice, or any sort of open, transparent, or accessible conversation was ever had with the community. Watauga was the only county in the state to be targeted -- punished -- in this way.

The Hise Map, Oct. 2023

The three sitting Democratic county commissioners responded earlier this month by exercising their ability under state law to hold a ballot referendum to return the power to Watauga citizens to set commissioner districts. This was approved in a 3-2 vote, along party lines.

Then, just a day later, Hise introduced a second local bill, saying that a referendum approved by the people in Watauga could have no impact on maps until after 2030, and he went further by gerrymandering our school board members into new districts following the Hise commission map -- again, without public involvement or notice.

The two Hise districts representing the town of Boone and a majority of its suburbs will not be up for election until 2026. These are the only two Democratic-friendly districts in Hise's map. No current representation exists for those districts, as no current county commissioner resides in either. Hise's intention is that the two commissioners in Democratic districts will be appointed by the likely three Republican winners of this fall's election.

Ralph Hise lives in Spruce Pine and has represented Watauga County in the Senate for less than a term. Local bills like Hise's are fundamentally anti-democratic, a form of aggressive government overstep, a power grab, and hyper-partisan.

At its regular meeting tonight, the Watauga County Commission will consider a resolution for the content of a public referendum on county commission districts. Being proposed by the Democrats is a mixed system of three districts based on equal population and geographic distribution and two at-large seats to be elected by the entire county. Three possible maps have been produced by a certified map-drawer who was instructed to draw districts with equal populations with no consideration of political affiliations. These three maps were published in the county commissioner meeting packet for this evening, pp. 59-61, and are reproduced here:


Anonymous said...

This latest Hise bill actually says that whatever the citizens of Watauga want for our county won't go into effect until AFTER the 2032 elections....i.e. not until 2034. That's 10 years.

I listened to the letter the School Board sent to the committee hearing this local bill...they're unanimously opposed to this gerrymandered attack on our local public schools, and called it an attempt to 'weaken one of the top-rated school systems in the state.' Unfortunately, the committee didn't listen any more than Hise did.

I, Personally, don't care what Raleigh thinks.

Anonymous said...

The three options from the County Commissioners are designed to give the Democrats total control in Watauga County and to deny the rural voters real representation.

How democratic of them.

Anonymous said...

Actually, option C would have pretty much guaranteed control by Democrats, which they rejected.

We've generally had mixed Commission Boards in the past, with control shifting back and forth between the parties, depending on what voters were mad about at the time. Maybe Hise should have left us alone.

Anonymous said...

Hise offers lessons in election rigging