North Carolina's under-representation of racial and ethnic minoritiesAnother perennial problem in North Carolina is lack of representation for ethnic minorities. While the state has a 21.6% African American population, only 10% of members of County Governing Boards are African American. The county of New Hanover, for example, is 15% African American, yet both the School Board and the County Board of Commissioners are entirely white. New Hanover Board of Education has been censured in the press for failing minority students ñ the school district has one of the biggest achievement gaps between black and white students in the region. As things stand, many racial minority voters in North Carolina living in white majority areas have no way of influencing who is elected to represent them.
In over 100 localities within the U.S., including seven North Carolina counties, full representation (sometimes known as Proportional Representation, or PR) is already used give ethnic and racial minorities fair representation in government even when they are geographically dispersed. Our discussions will take in questions of how these systems could be made to function in areas currently using winner-take-all systems, as well as how places which already have full representation can maximize its benefits.
The state of North Carolina as a whole does not have a proportional number of ethnic and racial minority representatives in local goverment. The state has a 21.6% African American population, while only 10% of members of County Governing Boards are African American. These alarming statistics highlight the need for change in North Carolina.
Whilst this under-representation is statewide, and deserves to be addressed on a statewide level, clearly some counties and areas have more obvious problems than others. In addition, not all areas, setting aside questions of need, would be suitable locations for outreach. Frequently, it is the most rural counties where under-representation is most glaring. However, rural areas may lack the political support networks, which would be necessary even to host workshops discussing solutions, and certainly to push through reform. And in focussing purely on the areas with the greatest apparent need, we run the risk of failing to reach a larger number of people who could also benefit from our work. In recommending sites to focus on, then, our primary focus was evidence of discrimination against minority voters. But we also preferred urban areas ñ and when possible areas where we had some evidence of a progressive community, for instance university towns, or towns where FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy already had contacts ñ to rural ones. In an attempt to reconcile conflicting criteria, we grouped likely looking counties into areas including at least one urban center, and a number of outlying predominantly rural counties.