PEMBROKE — With candidates able to begin filing for Lumbee Tribal Council seats on Monday, the tribe’s Board of Elections learned just this week that November’s election will be held with 21 newly drawn districts.
New district maps were introduced to the Elections Board by Larry Townsend, chairman of the tribe’s Constitution and Ordinance Committee, on Wednesday, according to Sheila Beck-Jones, chairman of the Board of Elections. Townsend had said new maps would not be drawn in time for November’s election. As required by the tribe’s constitution, the maps have been approved by the members of the Lumbee Tribal Council.
Townsend did not return phone calls from The Robesonian requesting comments for this story.
The Tribal Council is now made up of 21 members representing 14 districts. The newly drawn maps allow for one council member per voting district. Under the 14-district system, some of the tribe’s districts, such as in Pembroke, had up to three representatives.
Beck-Jones said that the sudden change from 14 districts to 21 districts so close to the beginning of the month-long candidate filing period will be a challenge for her board, potential candidates and tribal voters.
“This is more of a challenge than any other thing I have seen since I have served on the board,” Beck-Jones said. “We still have some questions, but we will work though it and find solutions. Finding solutions is what we do.”
The maps, which were drawn by the Lumber River Council of Governments, were based on 2010 census data. Each district includes a population of 3,099 and was drawn “solely by census block,” according to Councilman Alton Locklear.
“Council members were not involved in drawing the maps. There was not a single change to the final maps as drawn by the Council of Governments,” Locklear said.
Jan Maynor, executive director of the Lumber River Council of Governments, said that the maps were reviewed and approved by the Tribal Council in two meetings.
“Council members were allowed in the process to protect incumbents,” she said. “The only protection the council required was that incumbents live in their districts.”
All of the former 14 districts were affected by the remapping, said Councilwoman Anita Hammonds-Blanks, who as a result of the changes will no longer be representing Saddletree. Since she cannot seek another term, she will be representing a newly created district in Cumberland County, where no race is being held this year.
“The districts were all cut up and (district) numbers changed. Not all of the council members are happy,” Hammonds-Blanks said. “There is no easy fix from going from 14 districts to 21 districts.”
Hammonds-Blanks said that the big issue that must be addressed is getting word out to voters about the new districts.
“People don’t know what voting district they are in, but we have a couple of months to get the word out before the election,” she said.
Beck-Jones said that when candidates come into file for the November election, the first thing they will be asked is to show on a map exactly where they live.
“If there is no race there (in the new district), they will be ineligible to run for a seat on the council,” she said.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.