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New district lines for city of Lancaster?

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Budget and Control Board briefs Council members on redistricting process

By Jesef Williams

The city of Lancaster’s district lines could look different next year.

Wayne Gilbert of the S.C. Budget and Control Board spoke at City Council’s meeting Tuesday, June 12, about redistricting and the options available to the city.

Gilbert, who works in the Budget and Control Board’s office of research and statistics, shared data that’s based on 2010 Census numbers.

The city of Lancaster is divided into six districts, which are each represented by a council member. The mayor – a seventh council member – represents the entire city.

Gilbert presented “benchmark” statistics that showed the latest population figures for each district. Population shifts since the last census support the notion that the city should consider redistricting in the near future, he said.

City Attorney Mandy Powers Norrell agreed.

“We would recommend you consider redistricting in 2013,” she told council. “We’d like you to have this information now, so you can start thinking about it.”

According to census data, the city has 8,526 residents. With the way the lines are currently drawn, the most populated district is District 6 with 1,677 residents. The least populated is District 1 with 1,282 residents.

Gilbert displayed two redistricting proposals, which both tweak the current lines slightly to make the district populations more balanced. Law allows districts to have a population deviation of up to 10 percent.

One proposal puts District 5 as the most populated, with 1,448 residents, and District 1 as the least populated with 1,394.

The second proposal has less of a variance between the districts. District 5 again has 1,448 but District 6 would be the least populated at 1,407 residents.

City Councilwoman Linda Blackmon-Brace questioned Gilbert about the proposals. She took issue with the first draft, which narrowed her district and extended its western boundaries into areas currently represented by Councilwoman Sara Eddins (District 6).

Blackmon-Brace suggested the lines be drawn in a way that equally captures residents who are old enough to vote. 

She also asked Gilbert how many of these residents are illegal immigrants.

“I have a very deep heartburn with my district, with both proposals,” Blackmon-Brace said.

Gilbert said the numbers are based on federal census data and that he doesn’t know who is a legal citizen or not.

Councilman John Howard later addressed Blackmon-Brace’s assertion, saying it’s illegal to draw lines based on age. It’s simply based on population, he said.

Mayor Joe Shaw expedited the discussion by reminding council members that the maps are merely drafts and that no decision is being made on district lines any time soon.

“We just want to make sure we know the procedure to move this on,” Shaw said. “We can sit here and tear it apart and not accomplish a thing.”

Gilbert told council it’s not practical to attempt to redraw lines before November’s election and said the Budget and Control board looks forward to working with the city on the process.

“We can actually look at the different concerns and redraw it,” Gilbert said. “This is just for information.”

 

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152