Asheville voters will decide this fall whether they want city council districts or the current system of electing members at-large. That’s even though the North Carolina General Assembly already passed a measure forcing the city to draw districts for the 2019 election.
It’s a pretty simple reason why Asheville voters will get a say this fall says Citizen-Times reporter Joel Burgess, who covers city hall. “What’s the point one might ask, and it seems to be the (Asheville) city council might be setting up a legal challenge", Burgess says. "Essentially if there’s a strong reaction from voters against (districts), what residents might be telling city council is ‘fight it.’”
There is legal precedent for this, as similar districting bills passed by state lawmakers affecting the Greensboro city council and Wake County Board of Commissioners did wind up in court. The Asheville referendum was first floated by city leaders after the council districts bill failed in the General Assembly last year. A poll was conducted in March of this year which showed 72% of city voters surveyed wanted the ability to vote on whether there should be council districts or not. But the poll results on whether they favored districts or at-large seats was unclear. 54% of those surveyed said the city should keep its current at-large system. But when asked if there were a referendum asking “Shall the City of Asheville amend the Asheville City Charter to require each City Council Member shall reside in, and be elected from, a single-member district by a majority of the qualified voters of each respective district”, 54% said they'd vote yes to create districts.