School redistricting guidelines approved

Current Board members could lose seat after redrawing of board districts

by Mark DiBiasio

With the publication of the 2010 census results, the Board of Education begins its process of redrawing the School Board voting districts to reflect the changes in population.

Chairman Dean Arp and Carolyn Lowder were both on the board during the last redistricting process.

In April, the Board hired the law-firm Tharrington Smith, LLP to guide them through the redistricting process. This firm served in the same capacity during the 2001 redistricting.

In a memo prepared by the attorney, Deborah Stagner, noted that Union County is North Carolina’s fastest growing county, experiencing a growth rate of 63 percent over the last 10 years. The population grew from 123,677 as reported in the 2000 census to 201,292 in 2010. Ms. Stagner listened to the discussion via a conference call and answered a number of questions asked by board members about the process.

The board approved the nine point guideline for redistricting, 8-1, John Crowder dissenting.

Ten years of explosive growth has created a large imbalance in the population represented by each district board member. John Crowder’s district 1 has the smallest population as compared to Marce Savage’s district 6, the largest; 20,280 vs. 53,466 or two and half times larger. The ideal-size for each district as suggested by the attorney, should range from 31,872 to 35,226. Districts 1 and 2 fall well short of those numbers and will likely see the greatest geographic change to the district map.

During the discussions, Board member John Crowder expressed concern that his district, District 1, maintain its high concentration of minority voters. District 2 representative Carolyn Lowder, felt the Board should give Hispanic voters a priority, similar to African-American minority.

When asked whether the District 1, a majority-minority district, should only contain a high percentage of African-American voters, Stagner said, “Certainly Hispanic voters are a growing population and should be considered, but it’s not just looking at the percentages of numbers.”

In 2000, District 1 was 43.5 percent black and 42.7 percent white, in the last ten years, the population has shifted, now, 40.1 percent are black, 31.2 percent white and the remaining 29 percent identified themselves as other racial categories.

According to census statistics, 79 percent of the county population is white, 11.7 percent black, the remaining 9.3 percent are identified as other racial categories.

Chairman Arp asked about the possibility of a board member being redrawn out of their district. Stagner explained the were that to happen, the board member “would finish their term, but would have to run [for office] in the their new district.”

The Board approved a time-line to complete the redistricting process; July 12 meeting to review the proposed plan and August 2 for a final approval of any revisions.

The Board may hold a public hearing, but a date was not set. Once the redistricting plan is approved, it has to be submitted to the US Department of Justice for preclearance, a requirement stemming from Union County’s being one of 40 North Carolina counties that come under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. According to Tharrington Smith, the test for preclearance is whether the redistricting plan makes it more difficult for minority voters to elect candidates of their choice.

In other business, the School Board approved contracts for HVAC piping at Forest Hills, Fire Alarm upgrades in multiple schools, kitchen renovations at Marshville and Unionville, HVAC DDC Controls at Sun Valley Middle and High Schools, and a Roofing Contract at Parkwood High School.

Guidelines for Redistricting
• To comply with one-person, one-vote, no district should be more than five percent above or below the population of the ideal-size district.
• District 1 should maintain a high percentage minority population.
• Districts should not split census blocks.
• In order to minimize voter confusion, districts should retain their -present configuration to the extent feasible.
• After first taking other guidelines into account, efforts should be made to keep districts reasonably compact.
• Incorporated municipalities may need to be divided, but divisions should be limited to the extent possible.
• Districts should avoid splitting voting precincts to the extent possible.
• Efforts should be made to keep current board members in their districts.
• Consider potential growth in upcoming decade in establishing boundaries.

Did you like this? Share it:

Comments are closed.