CVD homepage
What's new?
Online library
Order materials
Get involved!
About CVD

The Robesonian

Judge tells LREMC to revamp elections
By Roxana Schaefer
February 26, 2004 

LUMBERTON, NC - A Superior Court judge ordered Lumbee River Electric Membership Corp. to change its election process in order to offer a fairer chance for a racially representative board of directors. But the judge stopped short of giving plaintiffs a sweeping victory, denying a request to void the October election.

Superior Court Judge G.K. Butterfield ruled Monday in a Robeson County court that the corporation's election procedures "have the effect of disenfranchising the minority members of the corporation." All of the board members are American Indian and there hasn't been a non-Indian on the board since 1993.

"On or before June 30, 2004, the board shall make revisions to its by-laws that will likely result in greater electoral opportunities for African-American and Caucasian members of the corporation ... and seek approval of the Superior Court to schedule an election," Butterfield ordered in his ruling.

The ruling comes after nine LREMC customers and former board members - Ronald Hammonds, Rev. H.E. Edwards, Clifton Sampson Jr., John Kershaw, Mernelle Baxter, Delia Quaison, John Gingras, Peter Cooper and Jeanette Locklear- asked the court to overturn the Oct. 7 board of directors election and hold a new election.

In denying the request to void the election, Butterfield said it was "likely that a new election will have the same results and members of the minority communities will continue to be unrepresented." Hammonds ran and lost in the Oct. 7 election, during which all of the incumbent board members were re-elected.

Butterfield told the board that it "may consider:" eliminating at-large seats; increasing the number of districts from nine to 12; allowing members of each district to elect their representatives; creating multi-seat districts with cumulative voting; proxy voting;, Saturday elections; polling hours longer than two hours; voting by mail; "or any other procedures that will be inclusive for the minority members of the corporation."

The plaintiffs have objected to holding the elections at Givens Performing Arts Center in Pembroke, a largely Indian community, which they say stack the deck in favor of the election of Indians.

The co-op was first sued by the nine plaintiffs on Sept. 25, 2002, claiming the election system was designed to keep incumbents in power and keep people of other races from gaining seats.

Hammonds declared a victory even though the Oct. 7 election was not voided.

"I am tickled pink with the judge's wise decision," Hammonds said. "The way he addressed it, that has been our objective all along from day one - to bring about fairness so people could vote for their district and no more. In my opinion, this is one of the best things we've seen in a long time for the membership of Lumber River Electric."

Hammonds said that candidates will now "have to run on their own merits and qualifications" without the support of slates, or groupings of four candidates running together.

"The people in each district will be able to vote for their own representative, not people in other counties they don't even know," Hammonds said.

Walter White, LREMC's vice president of customer service and community relations, said a court order from Jan. 28 stopped the company from publicly discussing the suit, and the company wasn't sure if the ruling still applied.

After the Oct. 7 election, Hammonds made additional complaints to the company's Credentials and Elections Committee, which resulted in the committee recommending that the board address parking issues at Givens, number ballot boxes, improve accommodations for disabled voters, consider extending voting time, consider allowing customers to vote in less than all of the elections and consider alternatives to resolution voting - a process which allows one person to vote for a business or organization.

One LREMC employee was fired for forging resolution votes in the October election, according to the complaint.


top of page

Copyright © 2003     The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave,  Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616        [email protected]