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School Board Called Meeting on Redistricting Held Tuesday
By Anne Waits
web posted September 20, 2012
JOHNSTON – In a called meeting of the
Edgefield County School Board Tuesday evening, Bobby Bowers, director
of the S.C. Budget and Control Board, Division of Research and
Statistics, outlined the criteria and led a discussion on
redistricting. No stranger to Edgefield County, Bowers has in the past
worked with the county, town and school district on redistricting
matters and is past president of the S.C. School Board Association.
"There is no state law that says you have to redistrict," Bowers told
Board members. "Counties do and we have all the counties, but there is
no such law where cities and school districts are concerned."
Bowers said his office is in the process of looking at school districts
across the state.
"Be mindful of whatever you do, it must pass the General Assembly and
they won't be back in until January. So there is no rush."
He stated there are several criteria, but the first three are the
deciding factors in redrawing the districts. They are 1. Adherence to
the court ordered Constitutional requirement of one person, one
vote--in other words, an equal number of people in each district
2. Adherence to the 1965 Voting Rights Act as amended and by
controlling court decisions--they can't dilute the black voting
strength 3. Ensuring that parts of the districts are contiguous--they
can draw lines to protect existing incumbents in the same district. 4.
Respect for communities of interest 5. Attempting to maintain
constituent consistency 6. Avoidance of splitting voting precincts, and
7. Soliciting public input.
He reminded them that whatever plan is decided upon, it will not affect
the vote in the November election.
The Edgefield County School District currently shows a 29 percent
deviation; four counties are low and three are high. As far as the
Voting Right Act is concerned, Edgefield County, which is 50 percent
black and 50 percent white, must maintain three white districts, three
black districts and one toss-up.
The County and the School Board must keep changing because the growth
is primarily in the Merriwether area. When asked if Merriwether is
entitled to more seats, he replied, "Population-wise, possibly yes, but
the growth is white, and it would put two incumbents together."
Bowers said this is the third time the maps have been redrawn. They are
looked at every 10 years following the Census.
He said he believes that by the year 2020, a lot of places will not be
able to draw African-American lines because of the way the population
"Other types of election systems will have to be looked at," he said.
Someone brought up the question of the prisons and Bowers said the
prisons are not counted in the original count, since they are
non-voters anyway, but a portion of the prisoners are assigned to each
John Pettigrew Jr. remarked that he hoped the Board will consider
communities of interest as the next top priority after the first three.
"I mean areas like Johnston, Edgefield, Merriwether, Bettis--where
local representatives are close to the people."
Bowers reiterated that the School Board will draw up a plan--one that
will pass the Justice Department and do as little damage to deviation
and minorities as possible--present it to the delegation and then to
the S.C. Attorney General's office. They should look at what is best
for the District, he said.
"The delegation will decide whether to redistrict or not," he said.
Pettigrew said he understood that if the Board does not wish to
redistrict, the delegation can do so with or without them. Bowers said
that is correct.
Sen. Shane Massey, who was present, said he feels confident that the
delegation will not redraw the lines without School Board input.
Rep. Bill Clyburn, also present, said the District has always worked
together in the past and feels sure they will work together for the
good of the District.
In closing, School Board Superintendent Greg Anderson said as far as he
knows there was never any intent to keep anyone from voting in the past
and the School Board has always acted in the good of the District.
"They've always volunteered to redraw the maps," he said. "The last
time, I think there were 10 different maps. We always try to do the
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