Johnston County Commissioners need to redraw their district boundaries to allow for better representation, according to Timothy Hodges. Hodges, a 65 year-old Smithfield resident and former candidate for the Johnston County Board of Education, presented a petition signed by more than 90 people to Commissioners on July 19th asked they draw new district lines and also elect future commissioners by district and not at-large.
Currently, the county has seven commissioners and seven districts. Each commissioner must live in the district they represent. At election time, commissioners are elected by all county voters, not just the voters in their district. Mr. Hodges thinks that needs to change to give smaller towns more influence over who is elected, increasing the chances a minority can win election. Hodges says it’s all about fairness.
“For fairness, my personal feeling is they got districts but everyone in the county can vote in the districts for all the commissioners. It’s like Benson can determine who represents Clayton and vice versa. They are always complaining about one section of the county that has a heavy population, they can determine what goes on in all of Johnston County. Say somewhere like Princeton or Kenly who have a small area and fewer voters. A larger town can take away from what they want.”
Hodges believes if the district lines are redrawn, efforts need to be made to ensure a minority is elected to the board.
“That is the biggest issue. When it comes down to fairness, being an African American and living here all my life, I have never seen an African American serve as a county commissioner. They way they’ve got it now, we are going to be outvoted every time. I am hoping they can draw a district with a majority African American and Latino communities and we can vote someone from the non-white race to the county commission. We hope that can happen,” Mr. Hodges said.
Hodges says minorities don’t have a voice on the county board and with major issues like development and the lack of infrastructure, their concerns need to be heard. “They are more or less putting in houses and buildings without taking any interest in infrastructure. They are interested in building first and infrastructure afterwards. We need to do better planning development and infrastructure before bringing everybody in.”
County Commissioner Butch Lawter of Clayton says redrawing the district is something he has talked about even before his election.
“I know there are requirements for each district to be similar in number of residents. I think that once we receive the 2020 census data, we can better evaluate our compliance with current voting requirements,” Commissioner Lawter said.
“As far as changes to voting methodology and other considerations for districts beyond population, based on the brief summary provided by our attorney, those issues seem far more complicated and require a lot more information for me to make an informed statement,” Mr. Lawter said.
Hodges, a disabled Vietnam Veteran, says he will continue to voice his concerns to commissioners until changes are made.