Commissioner Redistricting Likely after 2010
Redistricting of the residency districts for the county commissioners is in the future, but not this year.
At their Monday night meeting, the Moore County commissioners adopted a resolution calling for redistricting based on official 2010 Census population figures. Thus, the boundaries of the five districts will not be redrawn in time for the 2008 elections.
"We can't do anything until we get the numbers, but we can be prepared," said Board Chairman Colin McKenzie.
On a motion by Commissioner Tim Lea, the board voted unanimously to adopt the resolution, based on research conducted by a League of Women Voters committee. The league presented its findings to the commissioners at a February work session.
Results of the league study show substantial differences in the population make-up of the five residency districts. Based on 2000 Census figures, the ideal population for each district would be 14,954, but the districts vary from 18 percent below that ideal to almost 30 percent above.
McKenzie's District II shows the greatest disparity. Centered by the growing village of Pinehurst, it has a population of 19,437, or 29.98 percent greater than the ideal district population. McKenzie, who lives in Pinehurst, is not running for re-election this year.
District III, represented by Commissioner Cindy Morgan, has too few residents. This district, encompassing Robbins, Eagle Springs and North Moore, has a population of 12,226, or 18.24 percent less than would be ideal.
District I, represented by Commissioner Larry Caddell, has too few residents as well. This district, which includes Carthage, Vass and Cameron, has a population of 12,949, or 13.41 percent too few.
Less disparate are District IV, represented by Commissioner Tim Lea, and District V, represented by Commissioner Jimmy Melton. District IV has a population of 16,397, or 9.65 percent too many, whereas District V, with a population of 13,760, is short 7.98 percent.
In Moore County, the residency requirement applies only to the commissioners and candidates for commissioner. All voters, regardless of district, are entitled to vote for candidates in all five districts. However, the league, in its study, said that the population imbalance represents a substantial inequality.
The resolution recommended by the league opens with the statement that "voting is one of our most cherished rights and responsibilities" and adds that "redistricting gives meaning to the right to vote by creating plans that afford all voters an equal opportunity to take meaningful part in this process."
County Attorney Misty Randall Leland mentioned a few legal issues with the resolution but indicated that adoption of the resolution would put the board on record as favoring redistricting when the new population figures are official in two years.
Moore County is one of nine counties chosen to participate in a census dress rehearsal in which the Census Bureau, an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is testing its tabulation system in preparation for the real thing in 2010. The dress rehearsal polling is to take place in early May.
McKenzie said the board should set a date prior to 2010 to appoint a committee to work on the reapportionment process. He expressed appreciation to the league for its research and recommendations. McKenzie added that he and Lea had discussed redistricting a year earlier and agreed that redistricting is needed.
"We need real numbers, not the dress rehearsal," Caddell said in agreement that redistricting should take place after 2010.
The resolution also says that: "there is a question of fairness with respect to the inequality of voting district populations that currently differ substantially in that opportunities for candidates would be more equitable in districts with more equal populations."
Commissioners' residency districts were last reapportioned in 1995. At that time, the commissioners adopted a resolution in the form of a legal description of the boundaries with an accompanying map. No legal coordinates were available at that time.
Today, with more up-to-date computer mapping equipment, it is expected that the coordinates will be easier to define and to enter into a computer to determine the most ideal population boundaries for the five districts.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at florence @thepilot.com.
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