07/13/11 — Commission approves county district maps

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Commission approves county district maps

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 13, 2011 1:46 PM

It took two split votes Tuesday morning before Wayne County commissioners could agree on new voting district maps and the sticking points weren't major adjustments, but rather late, minor changes that had no impact on the districts' populations.

Also, just prior to the votes, Republican Party Chairman Bob Jackson and Democratic Party Chairman Stephanie Kornegay sang the praises of demographer Bobby Bowers and the open manner in which commissioners handled the redistricting.

Bowers explained the latest changes to the map including moving Goldsboro High School from District 6, represented by Commissioner Jack Best and school board member Rick Pridgen, to minority District 3 represented by Commissioner John Bell, who asked for the change, and school board member Thelma Smith.

Bowers sought to assure commissioners the last-minute changes had little effect on the maps.

However, Commissioner Andy Anderson pressed Bowers as to why the changes were made at the last minute. The changes were made because they had been requested by commission members, a not unusual situation, he said.

Another change shrunk the western portion of Mount Olive that is in District 4, represented by Commissioner Steve Keen and school board member John Grantham. The change moves Mount Olive closer to being in one district instead of being divided by District 4 and District 2 represented by Commissioner J.D. Evans and school board member Len Henderson

Bowers agreed that the only way to stop making changes was to vote to approve the map.

Bell made the motion to approve the map with the changes. Before the vote could be taken Anderson offered up an amendment to approve the map without the changes.

Anderson said he just could not understand the need for such minor adjustments.

Anderson and Keen voted for the amended motion. The rest of the board voted no.

The board then approved Bell's original motion 6-1 with Anderson voting no.

The votes followed a brief public hearing during which Jackson and Ms. Kornegay spoke.

Jackson commended the board for the plan and for its efforts to inform and involve the public. Jackson said he had to admit that he had somewhat doubted early promises of openness.

"I don't anymore," he said. "There were plenty of opportunities for those who wanted to give input and to look at the plans on a regular basis and express their feelings -- that was available.

"I think Mr. Bobby Bowers has done an excellent job in trying to adjust where you requested adjustments. Congratulations. You have done an excellent job. I think the process has been totally open and available."

Ms. Kornegay echoed those comments and thanked the board for the adjustments in Mount Olive.

"It is not easy when you have a district that has grown and you have to give up part of it," she said. "I want to thank you for doing that graciously and fairly. I think you have come up with a plan that some of the folks in Mount Olive had requested that we come closer to one district. I think you have done a good job coming closer to that."

The map will now be sent to the U.S. Justice Department which has 60 days to review the plan which cannot be implemented until it is pre-cleared by the Justice Department.

The most obvious changes are Districts 1, 5 and 6.

District 5, represented by Commissioner Bud Gray and school board member Arnold Jones, currently extends from the Wayne- Duplin county line south and east of Mount Olive encompassing the eastern part of the county as far north as Wayne Memorial Drive.

The new District 5 would take a portion of eastern District 1, represented by Anderson and school board member Chris West, extending north to Davis Mill Road to just east of the Fremont town limit.

Also, the new District 6 would cede some areas of Goldsboro to District 3, but take up a portion east of Dudley that is now in District 5.

Growth in the county's population, as well as population shifts necessitated the redistricting

The overriding criteria for the districts was the constitutional requirement of one person, one vote which means that districts are as mathematically equal as possible.

The number of residents per district is determined by dividing the total population by the number of district seats -- in Wayne County that is six means each district needs 20,437 people.

Also, the plan must adhere to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that has been renewed until 2032 maintaining minority District 2 and 3.