Redistricting Domino Effect

Published 4:53 pm Thursday, July 7, 2011

BUCKINGHAM – With no written objection from the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, the county's redistricting plan is now in effect.

In late March, the board of supervisors approved an ordinance establishing revised voting districts for the county. However, before the redistricting plan was official, it had to be reviewed by the U. S. Department of Justice.

In a letter to County Attorney E. M. Wright, Jr., dated, June 22, the United States Department of Justice advised, “The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the specified changes.”

Referencing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. 1973c, the letter added, “However, we note that Section 5 expressly provides that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin the enforcement of the changes.”

The redistricting effort began earlier this year in response to the 2010 Census, which placed the county's population at 17,146, an increase of 1,523 residents, representing a growth of approximately ten percent.

A committee that included the board of supervisors, chair of the school board; and, chairs of the Republican Party, Democratic Party, NAACP, and Buckingham Voter's League, held several work sessions before presenting a draft ordinance that basically revamps all the county's voting districts in order to meet the five percent variable for the county's ideal district of 2,449 residents.

Subsequently, a public hearing on the proposed ordinance establishing those voting districts was held on March 22. Following that hearing, supervisors approved the ordinance as presented. However, the ordinance could not be enacted until the Department of Justice reviewed the redistricting plan.

On the night of the hearing, Zoning Administrator and Planner Rebecca Cobb explained that District 5, which includes the Glenmore and Wrights precincts, and District 6, Slate River Precinct, experienced the greatest growth, with District 5 gaining 438 people and District 6 gaining 578.

She offered, “Because District 6 and District 5 did have such a greater population increase and the other districts didn't grow as much, those districts showed growth of maybe 100 to 200 people, we had to take people out of District 5 and District 6 and distribute them through the other districts by shifting the lines.”

The results of that shifting created a domino effect and resulted in changes across the county.

Voter Notification

According to Registrar Margaret Thomas, all of the county's 9,975 registered voters will be receiving new voter cards because Buckingham is in a new state senatorial district, the 22nd District.

Moreover, those new cards will include the recipient's district, precinct, and voting place/poll.

Thomas said the new voter cards would go out at least 15 days before the August 23 primary.

Reminding that the redistricting is based on total population of each district, not the number of registered voters, Thomas reiterated that the county's election district lines were adjusted to equalize the overall population of each district.

Subsequently, District 1 will gain a new precinct, the Georgia Creek Precinct. Voters in that precinct, who for the most part were previously in District 6, Slate River Precinct, will vote at the Centenary United Methodist Church, on Route 20.

Prior to the redistricting, District 1 had one precinct, New Canton. Voters in that precinct will continue to vote at the Arvonia Fireman's Hall, located adjacent the Arvonia Volunteer Fire Department.

Thomas said she anticipates the Georgia Creek Precinct will have approximately 400 registered voters and the New Canton Precinct about 1,100 registered voters.

Residents seeking a local office in the November election can now circulate the petitions that are required when filing as a candidate.

Thomas explained that those seeking a local office must file by August 23, at 7 p.m. She said all local candidates elected by district must have a minimum of 125 signatures of residents in their district.

However, the voter registrar noted that there are exceptions for prospective candidates in District 2, White Hall Precinct, and District 7, Gold Hill Precinct. They are only required to obtain 50 signatures because those districts contain less than 1,000 registered voters since each includes inmates incarcerated in a state correctional center.

Thomas pointed-out that the Republican Primary scheduled for August 23 is open to all registered voters. She noted that all precincts would be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on that day.

Buckingham's voter registrar encouraged all registered voters to check their voter cards when they receive them to see if their precinct has changed because of the redistricting.

Thomas offered that more information is available by calling the Buckingham County Elections Office at 969-4304 during regular business hours.