Boards Review Redistricting Options
Proposed realignment of residential districts for the Moore County Board of Commissioners — and the school board — held the attention of both boards at a work session Thursday.
Five computer-generated and population-centered options were examined, along with a possible sixth option mentioned during the meeting at the Agricultural Center in Carthage.
“We try to stay away from any political decisions,” GIS Director Chris Koltyk said in response to comments about proposed maps that would affect the districts presently served by the commissioners.
GIS — geographic information system — uses computers and other technology to develop maps, statistical analyses and related data for application to government and business.
In preparing the five district options, Koltyk incorporated the 2,698 census population blocks used in collecting data in the 2010 census. The figures were not necessarily responsive to existing districts, the residences of the commissioners, or the cultural and/or historical aspects of those districts.
“Tonight is just the starting point,” Commissioner Chairman Nick Picerno said. “It’s just a beginning. We can get with Chris, and he can do his magic with GIS.”
Large color-coded maps of existing districts and the five options lined the wall of the meeting room.
The problem with both the county and the school board districts lies in population changes since the last redistricting in the mid-1990s. Districts that were evenly balanced 15 years ago are now lopsided by widely differing percentages.
Using the 2010 census figures, Moore County has a population of 88,247, which divides into five districts of about 17,649 residents. The Board of Education situation differs with its eight members, three of whom are elected at large and the others from residency districts similar to those of the commissioners.
The present District 2, represented by Picerno (and Kathy Farren for the school board), has 7,158 more residents compared with the ideal size. District 3, served by Commissioner Craig Kennedy (Charles Lambert for the school board), has 5,052 too few.
District 2 encompasses Seven Lakes and much of Pinehurst. District 3 includes Robbins and a wide swath of north and west Moore County.
District 1, represented by Commissioner Larry Caddell (Dr. Lorna Clack on the school board), has the smallest differential, 64 too few. District 5 (Commissioner Jimmy Melton and school board member Bruce Cunningham) has 1,208 too few, and District 4 (Commissioner Tim Lea and school board member Laura Lang) is short 832.
Only two of the options, including one developed by Lea, provide almost perfect district population sizes. However, they pose other problems, such as breaking up neighborhoods — Seven Lakes, for example.
And a couple of those districts would place Picerno and Lea in districts held by other commissioners. Because of the county’s staggered system (three commissioners elected one year, the other two in the next general election), the situation could arise in which two incumbents would not be able to run against each other for another two years.
As another example, if Picerno wanted to run for re-election in Kennedy’s District 3, he would have to wait two years until Kennedy’s term expires. That’s also assuming that Kennedy seeks re-election.
This was one of several knotty questions discussed during the informal meeting.
Moore County elects its five commissioners from residency districts. This means that candidates must reside within a specific district. However, they are elected countywide. The system provides representation for five geographical areas but ensures that all five commissioners represent the entire population of the county, not just the district in which they live.
“We work for you,” Kennedy said to school board members and other visitors. “It doesn’t matter what district you live in.”
Under the residency district system, Moore County is not legally required to redistrict after each census, as is the case for congressional and legislative districts, but the league has been encouraging the county to redistrict in the cause of equity.
Jo Nicholas, president of both the Moore County and North Carolina leagues, opened the meeting with a presentation on the need for redistricting to meet the county’s changing demographics.
County Elections Director Glenda Clendenin advised that neither precinct lines nor voter tabulation districts are a factor in developing district boundaries. But Koltyk added that new districts cannot break up the census blocks, a tool used by the Census Bureau in collecting population data every 10 years.
Clendenin recommended that any new school board districts ensure representation from districts containing each of the three high schools.
One issue remaining for school board districts is the question of whether local legislation, a referendum, or both may be required to change boundary lines. State Rep. Jamie Boles said local bills cannot be introduced or acted on until the next regular legislative session in May 2012.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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