John Locke Update / Research Newsletter (Archive)

Annexation victory!

posted on in Property Rights

View in your browser.

Municipalities in North Carolina, subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, submitted letters to the United States Department of Justice arguing that the protest petition process in the new annexation law is a vote and therefore must be approved by the Department of Justice (referred to as preclearance).

In making this argument, the municipalities ironically expressed concern for city residents and renters in unincorporated areas, arguing they have no say in the petition process. Remember, these are the same cities who annexed people without giving anyone a voice.

The John Locke Foundation sent a letter to the Department of Justice arguing that the protest petition process isn’t a vote and therefore preclearance isn’t required. I know of at least one other letter sent to DOJ by supporters of the petition process (Good Neighbors United of Wayne County); there may have been others.

The DOJ issued a determination letter explaining that it doesn’t object to the protest petition process (i.e., it doesn’t require preclearance).

The protest petition process isn’t a vote, because only those who oppose the annexation sign the petition — there’s no choice made by affected property owners either to favor or oppose the annexation. The annexation is simply presumed to take place unless enough people oppose it. You can see the more detailed legal analysis in my letter. Even the League hasn’t called the protest petition a vote, but has called it a "veto petition."

If the municipalities were able to convince the DOJ that the petition process was a vote and therefore required DOJ approval, they would have shot themselves in the foot. Voluntary annexations also are done through a petition process and would have required preclearance. Voluntary annexations have never required preclearance, however. As I wrote in the letter:

If petitions from property owners to become part of the city do not require preclearance, then petitions from property owners to be excluded from the city would also not require preclearance There is no logical distinction.

Whether municipalities will go to court to fight the petition process remains to be seen. The legislature should simply deny any funding to municipalities seeking to challenge the law. That’s a simple fix without changing the process.

Click here for the Property Rights Update archive.


Daren Bakst is Senior Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy at the Heritage Foundation. In this position, Bakst studies and writes about agricultural and environmental policy and property rights, among other issues.  He has done extensive work on the farm bill… ...

Donate Today

About John Locke Foundation

We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.