Speculation not good in county redistricting

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2002

The board of supervisors is in the process of redrawing beatlines for Lincoln County and have set a goal of having theboundaries precleared by the Justice Department by the end of theyear. Redistricting is a big project, and lots of work liesahead.

At a public hearing Monday, officials discussed the need toequalize district populations, which have become too far out ofline with voting rights provisions since the last redrawing of thecounty’s five supervisor districts. While courts generally allow nomore than a 10 percent total variance (the difference between thecounty’s most populous district and the least populous), LincolnCounty’s total variance is now 16.63 percent.

The board of supervisors has to work out that issue, and theyalso have to keep in mind black population percentages. There issome good news for supervisors in that area. According to aredistricting consultant, the black voting age population ofDistrict 1, the county’s predominantly black district, increasedfrom 61.52 in 1990 to 62.58 percent in 2000.

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County officials are hoping that only a little work will beneeded in District 1, but some citizens questioned county plansMonday. Two individuals want the black voting age percentage in thedistrict increased to about 70 percent.

While we admire their interest in the redistricting process –they were among only a handful of citizens to attend the publichearing — we question a suggestion made by the two about the typeof voters they would like to see added to District 1. Theyindicated that property owners are more likely to take an activerole in elections. Those who rent and low-income individuals aremore likely to be apathetic about the election process and not voteon election day, they said.

The supervisors are required by law to maintain the black votingage majority in District 1. But, they can base their efforts onlyon the number of people eligible to vote. Guess work or speculationon who might or might not vote is not their job.

Maybe the best way to increase election participation inDistrict 1 — and the county’s other districts as well — would bea voter education program.