Proposed redistricting maps unveiled

Lancaster County residents may soon have one more representative fighting for their rights in Columbia.

Using data collected from the 2010 U.S. Census, the S.C. House of Representatives recently released its proposed redistricting maps for all 124 state districts. And based on increases in population numbers, Lancaster County could soon see four state House representatives.

County Administrator Steve Willis said the proposed maps, which are subject to change, show just how much the county has grown over the last 10 years. During the redistricting process, new Census numbers are used to balance each district’s population.

“Presuming these plans hold, we will soon have four, rather than three, representatives covering portions of Lancaster County,” Willis said.

The representatives include current Reps. Jimmy Neal for District 44, Deborah Long for District 45 and Jay Lucas for District 65, as well as Rep. Ted Vick for District 53, who would be a newcomer for Lancaster County.

Willis said there are several proposed changes to the district lines. In the case of Neal’s district, Willis said it will grow by a small percentage, picking up a few thousand residents and the areas of Erwin Farm and along S.C. 200 North.

The opposite is true in Deborah Long’s district, which will see a decrease in population as a result of extreme population growth over the last decade.

“Deborah had to give up about twenty thousand residents and did so in York County, which gained a new House seat,” Willis said.

The residents Long gives up will be part of a newly created York County district near the town of Fort Mill, Willis said.

“Everything in Lancaster County grew a lot and I think it shows,” Willis said. “Deborah Long’s district has to shrink to come up with the ideal number.”

As for Lucas and Vick’s districts, Willis said both areas needed to expand into parts of Lancaster County to reach the new population averages. For Lucas’ district, Willis said this meant it would expand slightly into southeastern Lancaster County.

But for Vick, who has never represented Lancaster County before, the redistricting will expand his representation to residents in the northeast portion of the Buford area. Willis said this portion used to be represented by Neal.

Willis said Chesterfield County, which Vick currently represents, didn’t grow significantly, so his district had to expand into Lancaster County to reach the population numbers required.

Between June 6 and 10 the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to convene to consider the proposed changes. Between June 13 and 30, the House will meet to consider any plans recommended by the Judiciary Committee.

After it’s approved by the House, the redistricting plan goes to the Department of Justice for approval. Barring any legal challenges, the new district lines can then be adopted.

County, Senate Redistricting

Willis said the redistricting process is also underway in both Lancaster County and state Senate District 16.

Willis said county staff is developing a public hearing schedule, which should be ready by the second week of June, so the public can weigh in on changes to county districts.

“We want to find out things like, if we’re in the north part of the county, do you want (U.S.) 521 to be the dividing line, from east to west? In the south, how important is it for Heath Springs and Kershaw to be in separate districts or should they be combined?” Willis said. “We want this input from the public.”

After the initial public hearings, the county will develop a draft redistricting map and then hold further public hearings.

State Senate redistricting maps were also unveiled this week. Willis said the proposed map for District 16, an area represented by Sen. Greg Gregory, did not change dramatically and is still split between Lancaster and York counties.

“The biggest difference is that the dividing line for the district moved a little further north,” Willis said. “The Elgin community is now just south of the line.”

Willis said all of Heath Springs, Kershaw and Charlesboro will be in District 27, which is represented by Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

By Chris Sardelli, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News