Supervisors begin redistricting process

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013

     Lincoln County supervisors have begun the process of deciding which supervisors will represent which parts of the county.

     At their meeting Tuesday morning, supervisors heard from consultant Bill Rigby, who will guide supervisors through the once-a-decade redistricting process.

     The purpose of redistricting is to equalize population, county attorney Bob Allen explained to supervisors. Each supervisor’s district should have a population as close to equal as possible.

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     Supervisors took action Tuesday to schedule a public hearing to solicit feedback from the public regarding any redistricting decisions.

     They set a public hearing date of Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. The hearing will take place in the supervisors’ boardroom of the Lincoln County/Brookhaven Government Complex.

     After this hearing, supervisors can begin to work with Rigby through the process of drawing new district lines and have tentatively committed to holding a second public hearing once they’ve settled on a plan.

     Rigby and Allen both strongly advised the board to hold a public hearing, though they acknowledged the hearing is not legally mandated.

     The public hearings will help a new district map garner favor when it comes under federal review.

     “The Justice Department really likes to see public participation,” Rigby said.

     Under the Voting Rights Act, redistricting plans in many Deep South areas must receive federal approval to ensure minority-voting rights aren’t curtailed.

     Further, there’s a 1983 court order requiring a minimum black population of 65 percent in one of the county’s districts, said Allen.

     District One is the county’s majority minority district, though, at current population levels, the black population has slipped to about 60 percent.

     The 2010 census indicated a fair bit of growth in the county.

     According to data compiled by Rigby, Lincoln County grew in population from 2000 to 2010. In the 2000 Census, the countywide population was 33,166. By the 2010 census, county population had grown to 34,869.

     In that period, the population of each district grew except for District One, which lost population.

     In 2000, District One had a population of 6,277 but fell over the decade to 5,446.

     District Three saw the most growth, expanding by more than 650 to a 2010 population of 7,388.

     Through redistricting, supervisors will aim to guide each district toward the ideal population of 6,974. The ideal is arrived at by dividing the total population by the number of districts.

     Population from other districts will have to be moved into District One; however, caution must be taken not to further dilute the district’s black population.

     A district can vary by up to five percent above or five percent below the ideal number, but the difference between the largest district and the smallest district cannot add up to more than 10.