IOW mulls adding districts

Published 9:40 am Friday, March 18, 2011


This is the product of the Isle of Wight County’s Redistricting Committee’s work on the tentative five-district plan. The public is invited to comment on this and the seven-district idea at a hearing on March 23 in the Courthouse. -- SUBMITTED | GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS

ISLE OF WIGHT—Isle of Wight County’s Redistricting Committee on Wednesday night examined expanding the county to seven election districts from five.

The current districts are Carrsville, Hardy, Newport, Smithfield and Windsor. Each is represented by one person on the Board of Supervisors.

The reconfiguration for seven districts may be done because the county’s population grew 18.6 percent over the past decade.

For about 3½ hours, committee members went back and forth with suggestions on moving the lines drawn on a staff-test plan.

Don Robertson, the county’s public information officer and a committee member, had previously explained that a challenge for redistricting includes maintaining equal voting districts.

Further, there’s more growth in the northern portion of the county than the southern. Plus, some districts are geographically larger but have less population density.

Ed Easter, chairman of the Redistricting Committee, said Thursday the group “completed a working, seven-district plan on Wednesday.

“But we still have research to do,” Easter said. “There’s just one majority-minority district (Hardy). We need to go back and take a real in-depth look and get a minimum of two majority-minority districts.”

That includes a plurality of minority voters.

Easter emphasized that like the seven-district idea, “the five-district plan is also a work-in-progress. It’s not cast in stone.”

One concern about increasing the number of districts is expense. Robertson wondered if more voting machines and poll workers would be required, for example.

Easter said that the committee “cannot make a judgment call on costs.”

“We don’t have the authority to decide which plan is appropriate,” he said. “The Board (of Supervisors) will decide which is appropriate.”

Even after supervisors decide on a plan, that in turn must be given to the Department of Justice for approval.

“It’s important to remember that the Department of Justice will ask why five to seven,” said Chris Noland, an attorney from Richmond and an expert on redistricting. “It could even ask for the lines to be redrawn.”

The public may comment on the proposed redistricting plans when the group meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, in the Board of Supervisors’ Room at the Courthouse.

Hard copies of the proposed map plans will be available and are also expected to be accessible at the county attorney’s office beforehand.