News

Primary Among Incumbents Shaping Up for House Race

  • Staff Report
  • Nov 11, 2021
NC House Districts
N.C. House District Map 2021

Two state House members placed into the same district by the recently completed redistricting process appear set to face each other in a Republican primary election next March.

State Rep. Jamie Boles, who won a seventh term for the District 52 seat last year, and Rep. Ben Moss, who first won election last year to House District 66 are at least two candidates planning to vie in the recently redrawn District 52 seat.

The redistricting process approved last week by the General Assembly shifts that district a bit south, encompassing all of southern Moore County, the most densely populated area, and Richmond County.

Rep. Jamie Boles
Jamie Boles

On Tuesday, Boles said he plans to run again for the seat. On Thursday, Moss issued a statement saying he too would compete for the seat.

“After several weeks of fervent prayer and consideration with my family, I’m humbled to announce that we are running for re-election to continue serving the people of District 52 in the NC House,” said Moss, “The people of our community deserve a strong conservative voice who will fight for their freedom, defend their rights, and honor our shared values. That is what we’ve done in our first term, and we look forward to extending our reach, delivering on our Republican principles to the people of Moore County.”

Ben Moss
Ben Moss

“We are incredibly grateful for all of our friends and supporters in southern Moore County for reaching out with their encouragement to run for re-election,” said Moss. “It has been the greatest honor of my life to receive the trust and confidence of our neighbors and to serve as their voice in Raleigh, and we look forward to continuing to improve The Sandhills through our support of public safety, infrastructure enhancements, economic development, and quality education, free from ‘woke’ indoctrination.”

Moss is a Rockingham native. In 2020, Moss became the first Republican to represent Richmond County in the NC House. 

McInnis Announces Re-Election Plan

  • Staff Report
  • Nov 11, 2021
McInnis.jpeg
Tom McInnis

Republican State Sen. Tom McInnis announced Thursday he plans to seek re-election to the newly drawn Senate district representing Moore County.

McInnis, a longtime Richmond County resident, had to move to a home in Pinehurst in order to establish residency within the district, whose boundaries changed through the redistricting process.

The General Assembly last week approved new maps for the House and Senate. Moore previously had been in a district with parts of Richmond County, but the new District 21 eliminates Richmond and adds parts of Cumberland County. McInnis owns property in both counties.

McInnis has represented Moore County since 2019, when the district lines were last changed as a result of a court order.

“Over the past few weeks, as Janice and I thought and prayed about the future, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends across Moore and Cumberland counties,” McInnis said. “It’s clear that this region wants a strong, conservative state senator and it would be my honor to represent the 21st district in Raleigh.”

McInnis, who was unanimously elected Senate Majority Whip by his peers in just his fourth term, is one of only a handful of state lawmakers in the United States to earn an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.

He has scored high ratings from several other conservative organizations.

As chairman of the powerful Senate Transportation Committee, McInnis has delivered funding for critical local infrastructure. And he was a lead negotiator in the 2020 agreement to bring the United States Golf Association’s headquarters to Pinehurst.

McInnis is a professional auctioneer and entrepreneur who built and ran  local businesses for the past 40 years. His wife, Janice is a retired teacher and also a native North Carolinian. They have four children and 11 grandchildren.

Members of the public say their testimony was distorted in Senate redistricting process

By Lynn Bonner – 11/4/2021

Rep. Amos Quick (D-Guilford) said the new maps were drawn with “surgical precision” to disadvantage African American voters. SB 740 won final approval in the NC House on Thursday.

Maurice Holland Jr. laughed ruefully when he heard that a Republican Senate redistricting leader used Holland’s comments to justify a newly drawn congressional district.  

The district, which includes part of the Sandhills, that Republicans drew is the opposite of what Holland wanted.    

“It’s a farce,” Holland said in an interview with Policy Watch. 

This week, Sen. Warren Daniel, one of his chamber’s redistricting chairmen, mentioned the names of 10 people whose comments he said were considered when drawing congressional districts.  

Policy Watch interviewed four of those people. Three said that their comments were distorted and taken out of context to support a bad map. A fourth said his comment was not about the congressional map but did not object Daniel mentioning it or to the redistricting plan.  

Legislators received thousands of comments on congressional, state House, and state Senate redistricting plans.  

Daniel said Wednesday that all the redistricting chairmen and staff “viewed some of the comments and picked out some of the ones that jumped out at us” and which were representative of other people’s comments.

Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke)

Daniel shrugged when asked about people who said their comments were misused.  

“I don’t know if there is something to say to that,” he said. 

Daniel, a Morganton Republican and GOP map sponsor, used Holland’s comment to bolster a plan for congressional districts that includes what Daniel called a “Sandhills district.”

The Sandhills region of the state is south of Raleigh and includes counties that border South Carolina.  

Holland said in an interview that what he described as a Sandhills district is not what Republicans drew. Cumberland County would be important to a Sandhills district, Holland said, but the Republican map doesn’t include it. And Holland doesn’t consider a Sandhills district to be one that extends into southeastern Mecklenburg County, like the one Republicans created.  

“They took what we said and did the opposite,” said Holland, chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party. 

Republicans rejected redistricting ideas from Democrats that came to public votes.  

Republicans rejected maps that included Sandhills districts that Holland preferred. The Senate redistricting committee voted down a map that Democratic Sen. Ben Clark of Hoke County proposed. Republicans didn’t allow floor debate on a map offered by Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat. 

Have GOP lawmakers mended their ways?

The state is required to draw new congressional and legislative district boundaries after each census to account for population shifts and growth. Districts must have populations that are about equal. They are to avoid dividing counties. Republican legislators devised redistricting criteria that allow communities with natural connections be kept together.  

Repeated lawsuits and court losses have forced state lawmakers to correct unconstitutional defects.   

Republicans this year have taken pains to say that they are drawing maps differently than in the past and have abandoned practices that got them in trouble with the courts.  

They are also careful about what they say in public, knowing their statements will become part of lawsuits. On occasion, lawmakers read from scripts, and Republicans tended to give repetitive answers to questions.  

Republicans said they created maps only on terminals in committee rooms where the public could watch, and did not use outside consultants. They have said repeatedly that they did not take into account racial or partisan data, because over the last decade courts have rejected their plans as racial or partisan gerrymanders. 

Democrats, however, insisted that legislators need a study of racially polarized voting. Such a study would reveal whether legislators need to draw federal Voting Rights Act districts. VRA districts, as they’re called, are those in which Black voters would have the chance to elect candidates of their choice. Republicans said ‘no’ to the study and no to drawing the VRA districts.  

A revealing federal court opinion issued in January 2018 described how Republicans two years earlier had asked the public to comment on congressional redistricting maps, only to ignore what people said.   

Deposition testimony described how legislative the then-redistricting chairmen, Republicans David Lewis in the House and Bob Rucho in the Senate, met privately with Republican redistricting guru Thomas Hofeller. They told him to create maps that would elect 10 Republicans and three Democrats to the state’s congressional delegation.  

Hofeller had the maps drawn before the public hearing and before the deadline for written comments, the court order said.  

“Because Dr. Hofeller finished drawing the 2016 Plan before the public hearing and the opening of the window for members of the public to submit written comments,” [information taken from a Hofeller deposition] “the 2016 Plan did not reflect any public input,” the order said.  

“Cherry-picking public comments”

It’s possible to read public comments and still misrepresent them.  

In a Monday committee meeting, Daniel mentioned a comment from Martha Shafer while describing a new congressional district. Shafer said at a public hearing that the city of High Point should be kept whole.  

Martha Shafer jumped on Twitter when she heard her public hearing comments were used to justify a redistricting map she called “horrific.” 

“Cherry-picking public comments in bad faith to support gerrymandered maps further undermines democracy,” she wrote. 

She said in an interview that she did talk about keeping High Point whole in a state House map – not a congressional map. Shafer ran for a state House seat in 2018 as a Democrat, but said her days as a candidate are behind her. It was running that campaign that made her interested in how High Point is treated in redistricting plans. 

Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) said the final maps ignored the wishes of voters who commented on the proposed districts and amounted to a “gross gerrymander.”

But her emphasis throughout was on keeping Guilford and Forsyth counties, and the cities that form the Piedmont Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point), together in a single district. Shafer has commented on redistricting in person and in writing. 

In a written comment she said, “Guilford County has a long history of being split by congressional districts. Frankly, at times it was extremely confusing for residents to know who their representative was. In addition to being confusing, it was ineffective. The last time we were split between congressional districts (13 & 6) many residents in our urban and suburban areas felt our concerns were not heard at all by either representative. No amount of phone calls, meetings or emails to our representatives produced results. They were attentive to the voices of the constituents in the rural areas, but not to us. We were frustrated because our needs were ignored. 

“The current congressional map — the one in place right now — does not split Guilford County and keeps Greensboro, High Point and Winston Salem together. It’s great! Our voices are finally being heard.” 

The Republican congressional map that legislators are approving this week does not preserve that situation. Guilford and Forsyth are in different districts, and Guilford is split into three pieces.  

Shafer said in an interview that Daniel used a small portion of what she said to justify something she opposes.  

“He did not look at the totality of my comments,” she said.  Daniel “took my Forsyth County testimony and cherry-picked just a couple of words from that to make it appear that I support this map when this is exactly what I thought should not happen. It’s ironic that he would use my name to associate with a map that I think is horrific.” 

Likewise, Liz Voss of Huntersville said her comments about three northern Mecklenburg towns were distorted to justify a plan meant to elect as many Republicans as possible.  

In the map, northern Mecklenburg and the county’s western edge form a crescent. It’s part of a district that includes counties to the west. 

“I never ever, ever, ever, ever would have told them what they pulled in,” said Voss. “This was just to say, ‘Oh, we listened.’ They didn’t listen at all.” 

Frank Williams said he remembers commenting on a state House district but added that  he does not mind Daniel using what he said to support a congressional district.  

“I do support this map,” said Williams, who has worked as a Republican campaign consultant.  

“They’ve done a pretty remarkable job of grouping communities of interest,” Williams said.  

Daniel mentioned that Williams is a Brunswick County commissioner, but Williams said he is not speaking for the county.  

“I give them a lot of credit,” Williams said. “It’s a difficult job. There’s already been a lawsuit filed over it. That tells you how that’s going to go.” 

Courts asked to review gerrymandering

Indeed, the lawsuit civil rights groups filed last week over legislative maps says lawmakers are required to draw Voting Rights Act districts where minority voters would be able to elect candidates of their choice.  

Under the legislative maps now headed for approval, it’s possible the General Assembly will have fewer people of color.  

This week, Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat from Robeson County and the only Native American in the legislature, pleaded for changes to the proposed district in that area so it could continue to elect a member of the Lumbee tribe. Graham has announced that he is running for Congress.  

“Let’s not undermine the opportunity to have American Indians in this body,” Graham said.  “I’m really concerned about that and I hope you’re concerned about that.” 

The House did not make the change.  

Several newly drawn districts where Black House members live would have narrow Democratic majorities, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project — a nonpartisan group that also gave the state’s new congressional, state House, and state Senate redistricting plans “F” grades for partisan fairness.  

North Carolinians tend to split their votes about evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates.  

The new congressional map has 10 Republican and four Democratic seats, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project determined. The website FiveThirtyEight says the map has 10 Republican, three Democratic, and one highly competitive district. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat and one of two Black members of Congress from North Carolina, is in the competitive district.  

In a video briefing with reporters Wednesday, Duke University mathematician Jonathan Mattingly said the plans show characteristics of gerrymandering.  

“We found that the map that has been proposed for the North Carolina House really dramatically under-elects Democrats,” he said. “We have a similar analysis for the Senate.” 

The legislature approved all three redistricting plans Thursday. Gov. Roy Cooper does not have the power to veto them.  

Here’s a look at the new maps:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynn BonnerLynn Bonner, Investigative Reporter, joined Policy Watch in October 2020 after 26 years as a reporter at The News & Observer. She covered the state legislature and politics for 20 years, and wrote extensively about mental health, state Medicaid policies and spending, and public education. Before coming to North Carolina, she wrote for newspapers in New England.

Ritter Will Not Seek Re-election to County Board

MooreCountyMemorialDedication SDC
County Commissioner Otis Ritter speaks during the Moore County Public Safety Memorial Dedication on campus at Sandhills Community College on Sept. 11, 2015. SARA CORCE/The Pilot SARA CORCE

County Commissioner Otis Ritter, who has represented northern Moore County on the board for almost 10 years, will not seek re-election next year, opening the way for a new commissioner.

A native and lifelong resident of the Robbins area, Ritter was first appointed to the county board in 2013 to replace Craig Kennedy. Ritter then won election to the District 3 seat the following year, defeating Louis Gregory in a GOP primary. He was re-elected to a second full term in 2018.

Ritter has served as vice chairman of the board, on the Local Emergency Planning Committee, the Fire Commission, the Sandhills Center Area Board, the Nursing and Adult Care Home Community Advisory Committee, and the Utilities Task Force.

He previously served 20 years as chairman of the former county Emergency Services Advisory Committee, which was replaced several years ago by the county Fire Commission, and was a longtime volunteer for the Robbins and High Falls rescue squads.

“I wish I was 18 years old so I could continue to do this,” Ritter said during Tuesday’s meeting, joking that he is not going away quietly. “You will not get rid of me.”

Ritter, the current board’s longest serving member, became emotional in thanking county staff for their support and work toward bettering the community. “You have made it so easy for us to move forward.”

The District 1, District 3 and District 5 seats are up for election in 2022. Commissioner Catherine Graham (District 1) is also not seeking re-election. Commissioner Jerry Daeke (District 5) has not announced his intentions. Each commissioner must live in the district they represent but are elected by voters countywide.

In early October, the county board approved a redrawn residency district map based on updated 2020 census data. As presented, District 1 brings Carthage, Cameron, Whispering Pines and Vass within a single, unified district. District 2 represents Pinehurst, Seven Lakes, Taylortown and the majority of the Eastwood precinct. District 3 encompasses nearly all of the northern end of Moore County. While the redrawn lines expanded the territory from 239 square miles to 341 square miles, it is still the least populated district. District 4 brings all of Southern Pines into a single district. District 5 represents the southernmost end of Moore County and encompasses Aberdeen, Pinebluff and reunites Foxfire into a single residency district.

EMS Partners on Study

The odds of surviving cardiac arrest outside of a hospital have not substantially improved over the last 30 years. Here in Moore County, approximately 125 people each year experience such an event.

“We rank in the top of our category on good (outcomes),” Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips told county leaders on Tuesday.

Phillips endorsed a contract between Duke University and the county’s Emergency Medical Services to partner on a seven-year research study to evaluate community and local health system intervention aimed to improve out-of-hospital cardiac arrest outcomes.

A recent pilot study conducted by Duke University found a combination of early bystander CPR or first-responder defibrillation is associated with a two- to three-fold higher rate of patient survival. Treatment within the first two minutes of cardiac arrest was particularly effective, with a 59 percent survival, compared with 13 percent for those treated after 10 minutes.

Phillips said Moore County’s survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest exceeds both the state and national average. He also noted that only patients and their families who volunteer for the study will be evaluated as part of the Duke University Randomized Cluster Evaluation of Cardiac Arrest Systems study.

In the late 2000s, more than 300 AED machines were installed at various locations around Moore County, including schools, churches and public facilities, as part of the HeartSafe Initiative. Moore County EMS maintains a county-wide list of all AED locations.

To ask about AED registration, getting one of these machines in your building, or to check whether your device is working properly, email Brooks at sbrooks@moorecountync.org.

In other action Tuesday, the Moore County Board of Commissioners:

  • Sitting as East Moore Water District Board of Directors, approved:  minutes, Deed of Dedication for Brookwood Phase 2 East and Ingleside, EMWD Phase 4 reconciling change order # 3
  • Recognized and adopted resolution in honor of George Little, national college Trustee of the Year
  • Proclaimed November as Adoption Awareness Month
  • Received presentation regarding land swap and upset bid process opportunities for Solid Waste
  • Endorsed proposal to establish a Registered Environmental Health Technician position at the State level
  • Approved sole source purchase agreement with Zoll Medical Corporation
  • Approved purchase contract with Northwestern Emergency Vehicle for a new ambulance
  • Reappointed Loretta Jacobs to the Aging Advisory Council
  • Appointed Tucker McKenzie and Farrah Pulliam to the Planning Board

Commissioners Face Criticism Over Health Department

TEASER Moore County Seal
Photograph by JAYMIE BAXLEY/The Pilot

Citizens upset with ongoing coronavirus safety protocols in the schools and Health Department challenged the Moore County Commissioners during the public comment period of Tuesday’s business meeting.

Much of the focus was on the local health board and Board of Education policies and data, with several recommending commissioners withhold funding to these institutions until student mask mandates are lifted.

“We are not satisfied with the job you are doing…I want to stress that we are neither pro-mask or anti-mask, pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine. What we are in favor of is for you, the commissioners, and the Board of Health to do your jobs. And, in particular, for the Board of Health to completely and properly inform the citizens of Moore County about COVID,” said Mike Fridel.

Other speakers, including Tom LoSopio and Beth Ann Pratte, questioned the veracity of data that health officials provide, and they argued that face masks provide inadequate protection and are not necessary.

Now more than a year into students wearing face masks at school, parent Tanya Arnett argued there has been no regard for the long term effects on students from the school mask policy. She asked county leaders to restore parental rights by making face masks optional, a request that was echoed by several other speakers.

The General Assembly has vested individual school boards with that authority and required those boards to evaluate local conditions and make a decision every month over whether to make face masks mandatory or optional. Moore County Schools officials work in concert with the Health Department regularly to review that data. Another decision on whether to continue mandatory face masks is slated for the school board’s November meeting.

Other speakers Tuesday night criticized the school board’s public comment policies, which they say are part of a broader effort to silence those opposed to mask mandates. Recent school board meetings have had public comment periods lasting up to two hours, with many of the speakers critical of the board’s policies.

Several local residents have criticized the school board for continuing to hold its regular board meetings at its central office board room, which can only accommodate a few dozen people, instead of scheduling meetings in larger school gyms and auditoriums that can seat more people.

The board last month moved meetings back to its Carthage meeting room and instituted several safety measures, including metal detectors, after the district said it had received a threat recorded on a phone line. The Pilot filed a public records request for the threat and related content, but it remains under investigation by Moore County Schools Police.

Speaking to commissioners Tuesday night, Cortney Grozs said the county’s pandemic policies should be dictated as a matter of common sense at this point.

“I think you all are capable of understanding the facts and data and doing your own research,” she said. ““You have seen the effects of COVID, seen the effects of vaccinations, seen the effects of masking, seen the effects of mandates, seen the effects on our economy, seen the effects on our society, seen the effects on all of our psyches and the way we socially interact with each other, and the financial impact on our communities and ourselves.”

“It seems like the school board was blaming the health department for mandates, so I’m wondering who is in charge,” said Margaret Smetana. She also questioned whether Moore County Schools spent less of its budget last year on things like utilities, as a result of virtual learning, “so I’m hoping that means (school) appropriations will be less.”

County Vice Chair Louis Gregory, who also serves on the 11-member Moore County Board of Health, said it is the responsibility of the health director to determine appropriate public health policies under the direction of the county’s health board.

Later in the meeting, Gregory also addressed criticism directed at the Board of Education.

“We should never forget that our school board is an elected position,” Gregory said, “and they themselves are the ones that we should listen to, find fault with if there is any, and none of that reflects on this board. We have tried our very best to stay out of their business; it is their business. They are elected officials with our county. If there is any criticism whatsoever, I want to reiterate that those comments should be directed to school board officials, and not us.”

Redistricting Plan Questioned

Earlier this year, county leaders anticipated a Nov. 17 deadline to approve changes to the commissioners’ district boundaries ahead of primary elections next spring.

However, earlier this month, County Attorney Misty Leland discovered information passed down from the State Board of Elections to local officials indicating the deadline for changing districts was actually Oct. 9.

In response, county leaders quickly approved an updated redistricting plan on Oct. 5. A public hearing is not required to make these changes but there was general consensus among commissioners that the accelerated timeline was less than ideal.

Commissioners’ district lines are used for county elections only and do not impact ongoing state redistricting work underway by the General Assembly. Each commissioner must live in the district they represent but are elected by voters countywide.

According to the 2020 census data, Moore County’s estimated population stands at 99,727. Ideally, each of the five districts would represent approximately 19,950 individuals. The districts should also be drawn to maintain the integrity of communities — and voting precincts — within a single district when possible.

As presented and approved by county leaders:

  • District I brings Carthage, Cameron, Whispering Pines and Vass within a single, unified district (pop. 23,371).
  • District II represents Pinehurst, Seven Lakes, Taylortown and the majority of the Eastwood precinct (pop. 26,681).
  • District III encompasses nearly all of the northern end of Moore County and the redrawn lines expanded the territory from 239 square miles to 341 square miles, however it is still the least populated district (pop. 14,027).
  • District IV brings all of Southern Pines into a single, unified district (pop. 18,956).
  • District V represents the southernmost end of Moore County and encompasses Aberdeen, Pinebluff and reunites Foxfire into a single residency district (pop. 16,692).

Maurice Holland Jr., chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party, said he was disappointed a public hearing had not been scheduled prior to adoption of the redrawn districts. He noted that District II and District IV are oversized, based on the ideal district population count.

In addition, he said, the third and fifth are undersized by comparison.

“In the interest of transparency, a public hearing should be held prior to adoption of any maps. We also request that the Moore County Board of Commissioners adhere to the doctrine of one person, one vote in redistricting for both county commissioner districts and the Moore County Board of Education member districts.”

Holland provided county leaders with two alternative district maps, and said the Moore County Democratic Party supports the belief that citizens would be better-served by elections in which voters in each district exclusively determine their own representative.

In terms of the school board, Holland said the same five residential districts should be followed, with members elected by single member districts and two at-large school board members.

In other action at its Oct. 19 meeting, the Board of Commissioners:

heard a COVID-19 update from the Health Department;

approved the Community Transportation Program grant application;

reappointed Commissioners Chair Frank Quis to the TARPO Rural Transportation Advisory Committee; and

appointed Tim Venjohn as the ETJ member of the Whispering Pines Tree Board.

Citizens upset with ongoing coronavirus safety protocols in the schools and Health Department challenged the Moore County Commissioners during the public comment period of Tuesday’s business meeting.

Much of the focus was on the local health board and Board of Education policies and data, with several recommending commissioners withhold funding to these institutions until student mask mandates are lifted.

“We are not satisfied with the job you are doing…I want to stress that we are neither pro-mask or anti-mask, pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine. What we are in favor of is for you, the commissioners, and the Board of Health to do your jobs. And, in particular, for the Board of Health to completely and properly inform the citizens of Moore County about COVID,” said Mike Fridel.

Other speakers, including Tom LoSopio and Beth Ann Pratte, questioned the veracity of data that health officials provide, and they argued that face masks provide inadequate protection and are not necessary.

Now more than a year into students wearing face masks at school, parent Tanya Arnett argued there has been no regard for the long term effects on students from the school mask policy. She asked county leaders to restore parental rights by making face masks optional, a request that was echoed by several other speakers.

The General Assembly has vested individual school boards with that authority and required those boards to evaluate local conditions and make a decision every month over whether to make face masks mandatory or optional. Moore County Schools officials work in concert with the Health Department regularly to review that data. Another decision on whether to continue mandatory face masks is slated for the school board’s November meeting.

Other speakers Tuesday night criticized the school board’s public comment policies, which they say are part of a broader effort to silence those opposed to mask mandates. Recent school board meetings have had public comment periods lasting up to two hours, with many of the speakers critical of the board’s policies.

Several local residents have criticized the school board for continuing to hold its regular board meetings at its central office board room, which can only accommodate several dozen people, instead of scheduling meetings in larger school gyms and auditoriums.

The board last month moved meetings back to their Carthage office and instituted several safety measures, including metal detectors, after saying they had received a threat

Cortney Grozs said the county’s pandemic policies should be dictated as a matter of common sense at this point.

“I think you all are capable of understanding the facts and data and doing your own research,” she said. ““You have seen the effects of Covid, seen the effects of vaccinations, seen the effects of masking, seen the effects of mandates, seen the effects on our economy, seen the effects on our society, seen the effects on all of our psyches and the way we socially interact with each other, and the financial impact on our communities and ourselves.”

“It seems like the school board was blaming the health department for mandates, so I’m wondering who is in charge,” said Margaret Smetana. She also questioned whether Moore County Schools spent less of its budget last year on things like utilities, as a result of virtual learning, “so I’m hoping that means (school) appropriations will be less.”

County Vice Chair Louis Gregory, who also serves on the 11-member Moore County Board of Health, said it is the responsibility of the health director to determine appropriate public health policies under the direction of the county’s health board.

Later in the meeting, Gregory also addressed criticism directed at the Board of Education.

“We should never forget that our school board is an elected position,” Gregory said, “and they themselves are the ones that we should listen to, find fault with if there is any, and none of that reflects on this board. We have tried our very best to stay out of their business: it is their business. They are elected officials with our county. If there is any criticism whatsoever, I want to retitrate those comments should be directed to school board officials, and not us.”

Redistricting Plan Questioned

Earlier this year, county leaders anticipated a Nov. 17 deadline to approve any changes to the residency district boundaries ahead of primary elections next spring.

However in early October, County Attorney Misty Leland discovered information passed down from the State Board of Elections to local officials was incomplete. The actual deadline for approving any changes to redistricting lines was actually Oct. 9.

In response, county leaders quickly approved an updated redistricting plan on Oct. 5. A public hearing is not required to make these changes but there was general consensus that the accelerated timeline was a less-than-ideal situation.

The five residency districts are used for county elections only, and do not have any impact on the ongoing state redistricting work underway by the General Assembly. Each county commissioner must live in the election district they represent but all qualified voters in the county may vote for all five county commissioner members.

According to the 2020 census data, Moore County’s estimated population stands at 99,727. Ideally, each of the five districts would represent approximately 19,950 individuals. The districts should also be drawn to maintain the integrity of communities — and voting precincts — within a single district when possible.

As presented and approved by county leaders:

  • District I brings Carthage, Cameron, Whispering Pines and Vass within a single, unified district (pop. 23,371).
  • District II represents Pinehurst, Seven Lakes, Taylortown and the majority of the Eastwood precinct (pop. 26,681).
  • District III encompasses nearly all of the northern end of Moore County and the redrawn lines expanded the territory from 239 square miles to 341 square miles, however it is still the least populated district (pop. 14,027).
  • District IV brings all of Southern Pines into a single, unified district (pop. 18,956).
  • District V represents the southernmost end of Moore County and encompasses Aberdeen, Pinebluff and reunites Foxfire into a single residency district (pop. 16,692).

Maurice Holland Jr., chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party, said he was disappointed a public hearing had not been scheduled prior to adoption of the redrawn districts. He noted that District II and District IV are oversized, based on the ideal district population count. In addition, District III and District V are undersized by comparison.

“In the interest of transparency a public hearing should be held prior to adoption of any maps. We also request that the Moore County Board of Commissioners adhere to the doctrine of one person one vote in redistricting for both county commissioner districts and the Moore County Board of Education member districts.”

Holland provided county leaders with two alternative district maps, for their consideration, and said the Moore County Democratic Party supports the belief that citizens would be better-served by county board elections where voters in each district exclusively determine their own representative. In terms of the school board, Holland said the same five residential districts should be followed, with members elected by single member districts and two at-large school board members.

In other action on Oct. 19, the Moore County Board of Commissioners:

Heard a COVID-19 update from the Health Department

Approved the Community Transportation Program grant application

Reappointed County Chair Frank Quis to the TARPO Rural Transportation Advisory Committee

Appointed Tim Venjohn as the ETJ member of the Whispering Pines Tree Board