County to tackle lines

Lancaster County Council was expected to discuss how they plan to handle county redistricting in anticipation of South Carolina Census data being released sometime this month.

Once county officials have received the 2010 Census information, they are expected to begin working with the Budget and Control Board on the redistricting process. Council’s agenda packet Tuesday featured several questions that council needs to answer before redistricting can begin.

The county needs to determine if they will utilize the South Carolina Budget and Control Board, purchase their own software in preparing the maps, or use both services.

County Administrator Steve Willis said the county could use a web-based software package for mapping that would allow the most flexibility for council to look at different options. He recommended also working with the Budget and Control Board for guidance.

“Back in the fall of 2010, we learned that they [Budget and Control] would have to charge for their services this time due to state budget cuts,” Willis noted in the packet.

Council also must decide how much change the maps will undergo. Willis said population shifts in certain areas will make it difficult but council is allowed to make efforts to avoid splitting precinct lines or other issues.

In discussing what changes might be made on the maps, council also has the option of protecting council incumbents.

“It is perfectly legal to draw the lines to protect incumbents. This is the one time the politician gets to choose the voters rather than the voters choosing the politician,” Willis said.

If they opt to protect council incumbents, they also may choose to do so with School Board incumbents, which follow the same districts.

Council was also expected to discuss whether to set up district populations utilizing the variances allowed by law, which is 10 percent. Willis advises council consider creating a 2 percent variance, which would create smaller districts in the north and larger districts in the south.

“If historical population trends resume once the economy turns around, we will be significantly out of adjustment with the panhandle areas substantially under-represented by 2020. I strongly suspect we will find this to be the case when we get the 2010 data and draw our base maps,” Willis said.

During the process, planning staff will work with the Budget and Control Board to develop the maps based on instructions from County Council. Willis said council may choose to appoint a committee to work on the development.

“Once we have an initial plan, we will need to conduct a series of public hearings to provide for input from citizens and interested groups,” he said.

The item was listed a discussion and information for Tuesday’s meeting.

By Joseph Garris Jr, News Editor with Kershaw The News-Era