County Delays Decision on Redistricting
Faced with six options for redistricting, the Moore County Board of Commissioners has once again tabled a decision until January.
At a Tuesday meeting, the commissioners agreed to delay a decision on residency districts until their next regular meeting Jan. 3.
Earlier in the meeting, two members of the League of Women Voters urged the board to adopt new districts with a more equitable population distribution.
Redistricting will affect all five seats on the Board of Commissioners and five of the eight seats on the school board.
Jo Nicholas, president of both the Moore County and the North Carolina leagues, thanked the commissioners and Chris Koltyk, GIS director, for working with the league to move the redistricting project ahead.
Carolyn Mealing, the other league member, mentioned that option 6 would provide satisfactory geographic representation and at the same time would retain each of the commissioners in his existing district.
Commissioner Nick Picerno, immediate past chairman of the board, made the motion to table the matter. Picerno said he had not had time to discuss the various options with Koltyk, who heads a department that provides geographic information services for the county. Much of the GIS program is focused on mapping.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Koltyk said the five original maps developed by his staff were based on criteria provided by the board, using population figures from the 2010 census. A sixth option, which represents a slight modification of option 4, was later prepared.
“Percentage-wise, it’s a very small difference,” Koltyk said.
Koltyk said his office provides geographical data and other statistical information but steers away from any role in the political field.
“That’s not our role,” he said.
The current district lines are broadly inequitable from the standpoint of population, with differences ranging from 7,158 too many residents in one district to 5,052 too few in another district.
Because these are residency districts, the effect of changing boundary lines lies largely with the pool of prospective candidates for election from a particular district. This system requires that the candidate reside in the district in which he or she runs for office.
However, all voters, regardless of residence, are allowed to vote on all five candidates for the Board of Commissioners and for five members of the school board. The other three members of the school board are elected at-large and may reside anywhere within the county.
For this reason, redistricting is not an issue that falls within the jurisdiction of the federal Voting Rights Act, which applies to a large portion of the state. The act was passed as a means of ensuring racial equality at the polls.
Koltyk said there was probably no population disparity when the present district lines were adopted.
The problem has developed since 1990 with population explosions in such areas as the southern part of the county and especially the area of Seven Lakes.
County Elections Director Glenda Clendenin said redistricting is strictly a voluntary matter for the county.
For new district lines to take effect for 2012, the board must take action before the filing period opens in February. That means the commissioners can hold off until their first meeting in February.
Clendenin said she checked with the State Board of Elections and was advised that inasmuch as redistricting is voluntary here, new districts may be placed into effect up to the last day before the filing period opens. The filing period will open Feb. 13 and close Feb. 29.
Because of the population shifts in the past 20 years, all of the proposed district maps show large geographical areas for District 3, represented by Commissioner Craig Kennedy, of West-moore, and District 1, represented by Commissioner Larry Caddell, of Carthage.
From a geographical standpoint, the smallest district would become District 2, represented by Commissioner Nick Picerno, who lives in McLendon Hills. District 4, represented by Commissioner Tim Lea, of Eastwood, and District 5, represented by Commissioner Jimmy Melton, of Aberdeen, would be somewhat larger in size.
The beauty of both options 4 and 6 lies in their close adherence to the desirable population size of each district. Based on the 2010 census, Moore County has a population of 88,247, which, when divided by five, reflects an average of 17,649 in each district.
Option 4 would provide two districts, 1 and 3, with ideal populations of exactly 17,649, one district with just one person more than the mean, one district with three too many, and a district with a minus-two.
Option 6 keeps the zero difference in Districts 1 and 3 but deviates more sharply from the mean. Under Option 6, District 2 would have three too many, District 5 would have 47 too many and District 4 would be short by 48. However, these differences fall well within the 5-percent allowed differential.
When it comes to representation, the difference lies in at least one school board district, which will likewise be scrutinized by the commissioners before a decision is made.
There is no requirement that incumbent commissioners and school board members be protected in redistricting, but a logistical problem could develop if a gap were to be created in one election cycle. That’s because members of both boards are elected on a staggered basis.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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