York County Council gets look at new redistricting proposal

A proposed redistricting plan for the York County Council meets two critical criteria, says a state official: The districts are within 1.86 percent of the ideal size and the council’s lone seat represented by a minority increases its black population.

Bobby Bowers, director of the state Office of Research and Statistics, said those are the two key factors the U.S. Department of Justice will use to evaluate the plan. He said the plan should pass Department of Justice review and withstand any possible court challenge.

Bowers presented the map to the County Council on Wednesday. The map was drawn by Bowers’ office for the county. The state offers redistricting assistance to counties, school boards and cities.

The plan is based on information from the 2010 Census. With the county’s increase in population, the ideal size for the council’s seven districts is 32,296 people. The proposed districts range in size from District 5 at 31,965 people to District 2 with 32,568 people.

The minority numbers in District 4, represented by William “Bump” Roddey, are important because the county’s plan falls under the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Any changes cannot lessen the likelihood of minorities electing candidates.

The practical effect is the percentage of blacks in the district should not be less than what it was at the time of the Census. Any decrease – called retrogression – makes it harder to defend the plan at the Department of Justice, Bowers said. The Census puts the percentage of blacks in District 4 at 55.68. The proposal increases the percentage to 56.4.

District 4 represents the southern half of Rock Hill. Bowers said he was not sure he could draw a plan without retrogression because of the integration of the city’s population.

Bowers managed to increase the percentage by moving the district boundary to the east, putting more of the city in District 4 and taking from District 7, which runs from Rock Hill to Fort Mill. The district is represented by Chad Williams.

The other big change was decreasing District 1, as it was 14,734 people over the ideal size. The district includes the high-growth areas along the state border and the Catawba River. That population had to be spread out over the remaining districts, he said. District 1 is represented by David Bowman.

Bowers said if the council tinkers with the plan it should not change the deviation from the ideal district size or decrease the black population in District 4.

Bowman said he wants to see if it is possible to redraw the district lines so that the Fort Mill school district is represented by two, not three districts – 1, 5 and 7 – as the plan proposed.

The council took no action on the map. Bowers encouraged the council to begin its review process, which would include a public hearing, so that the map could be approved by September.

By Don Worthington, Staff Reporter with The Herald