Council unveils new maps

With a laser pointer in hand, Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis unveiled the county’s first attempt at a new redistricting map Monday night.
Pointing at seven brightly colored areas on a large white map, Willis walked Lancaster County Council members through proposed changes to the county’s districts.
The most notable change is the creation of two districts in the Panhandle, split into northern and southern portions.
The northern district would have 10,772 residents, while the southern would have 10,777 residents. Willis said the two districts are purposely low in population compared to the other districts to allow for growth.  
Willis told council he expects the new Panhandle districts to be a major topic of discussion as the map is presented to county residents this fall.
“There are some residents who would like to look at an east-west split,” Willis said. “We will still be seeking comments for this.”  
Also notable in the new map, Willis said the current districts 5, 6 and 7 are merged into districts 5 and 6.
“That’s the biggest change in the southern part of the county,” Willis said Thursday. “And a little bit has been added to districts 2, 3 and 4.”
For the ease of numbering, Willis said the northern Panhandle district would be named District 7, while the southern Panhandle would retain its District 1 title. During the development of the map, Willis said several county residents asked if the county could make the whole process easier by just adding an eighth council member and district.
“We would need a special referendum because that’s a change in the form of government and only the citizens can change that. And even then we’d probably need it to be an odd number, so it would be nine council members,” Willis said.
A potential problem with redistricting is what to do with the current county school board members, Willis said. With the merging of the southern districts, he said this will create a problem for school board representatives for districts 5 and 7.
“In November 2012, we may need to do a special election between board members Janice Dabney and Mary Etta Taylor, because both of them have two years left,” he said. “They might have to go head-to-head to see who gets to serve the last two years.”
Councilwoman Charlene McGriff asked Willis when the map could be put into use after it’s submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval. Willis said the DOJ has a review period, which could last up to 90 days.
“The intent is to have the map from DOJ by March 2012 so when filing starts for various County Council districts, we can have the maps in place,” Willis said.
Council unanimously approved the proposed map for use in a series of redistricting public hearings where county residents can weigh in on the process. The hearings will take place between Sept. 13 and Sept. 26.
“We encourage folks to comment because council could consider their suggestions,” Willis said.
A copy of the proposed redistricting map can be found online at the county’s website,, by clicking the Government tab, then Lancaster County Council and then the redistricting page.

By Chris Sardelli, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News