The town has hired a Duke University professor to study and possibly suggest changes to the “limited voting system,” used in the past two commission elections, that stemmed from the settlement of a 2009 Justice Department lawsuit, which claimed the former at-large voting system diluted the strength of the town’s black voters.
Lake Park commissioners who were elected under the system in March say town voters don’t like being limited to one vote when four commission seats are on the ballot — even though all four commissioners represent the whole town, and not districts.
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Lake Park’s voting system
Old system: Candidates ran at large, meaning every registered voter in town could cast one vote for each open seat. Three-year terms were staggered. Two commission seats would be up one year, followed by two more commission seats the next year and the mayor’s seat the third year.
Current system: The voting system adopted by the town in 2009 to settle a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit puts all four commission seats on the ballot once every three years. Voters are allowed one vote for the four seats. The mayor’s seat is up the year after the commission election.
Voting study: The town has hired Duke University political science research associate Richard Engstrom to study the town’s voting system. The first phase of the study will examine the results of the past two commission elections. The second phase will examine whether the limited voting system has improved the chances of blacks to elect a candidate of their choice.