September 20, 2001

Proposed County Redistricting Would Shift Several Townships

The political subdivisions of Scotland County are getting a facelift. Following the 2000 Census results which revealed a large disparity in population numbers between the existing east and west districts, the county is considering replacing the old system with a more geographical distribution that would also create a more balanced population base for both regions.

Under the existing system the Western District has a population base of 2,966 while the Eastern District maintains just 2,017 people. The proposed boundary changes would eliminate that nearly 1,000-person unbalance shifting the population numbers to 2,635 in the Eastern District and 2,348 in the Western District.

The proposed changes would also make the division a more geographical split in true east/west form.

The existing system is not a true east/west division. The Western District consists of Miller and Vest Townships, which are in the west part of the county along with West Jefferson. However the current Western District also encompasses East Jefferson, meaning the entire city of Memphis falls in the Western District.

The current Eastern District consists of the furthest most east townships of Johnson, Thomson and Harrison as well as Union and Sandhill. However the Eastern District also includes Tobin and Mt. Pleasant townships, both of which are geographically positioned on the west side of the county.

Under the redistricting plan, the map would be divided along the same lines as the existing city split, which is basically Main Street in Memphis. Residents living east of Main Street in Memphis would be in the Eastern District, while those citizens west of Main Street would be in the Western District.

Miller, Vest and West Jefferson townships would all remain in the Western District. However the majority of East Jefferson Township would be transferred to the Eastern District.

Union, Tobin and Mt. Pleasant townships would all be shifted to the west district to offset the population loss of East Jefferson.

Thus the Eastern District would now be made up of East Jefferson, along with holdovers Sandhill, Harrison, Thomson and Johnson townships.

Attorney Kim Nicoli who has been working on the plan with the Scotland County Commission indicated the proposal meets the basic requirements of the law. The statutes mandate that redistricting generate sub-stantially equal population in the districts while also taking into consideration geographical considerations as well as natural divisions.

"There has been a faithful compliance to the plan of population-based representation in the redistricting plan," stated Nicoli. "There are some minor deviations based on geographical boundaries that are free from any discrimination or arbitrariness in the decision making process."

A public hearing will be held at 10:00 a.m. October 17 in the Scotland County Commission room. Anyone wishing to voice opinions on the proposal is welcome to attend.

If approved by the Commission, the redistricting plan would take effect January 1, 2002.

The political transition would have no effect on elections that year, as Presiding Commissioner is the lone office up in 2002. Both the East and Western District Commissioners will be up for election in 2004.

"We felt with the election situation the way it is, this would be the best time for a transition," stated Presiding Commissioner Mike Stephenson. "The changes will not truly effect voters for at least two years."

Stephenson also noted the need for the redistricting plan to meet compliance with the constitutional mandate of "One man, one vote."

"We have made an honest, good-faith effort to construct wards of as nearly equal population as possible using existing township boundaries," he stated.

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