Town Sends Ward Lines For Review By Justice Department

Published 1:28 pm Tuesday, October 30, 2012

FARMVILLE – The Town of Farmville has drawn new Ward lines and submitted them to the United States Department of Justice for approval.

“And usually that takes 60 to 90 days,” Town Manager Gerald Spates told Town Council following this month's public hearing on the redistricting plan, “and once we get their approval we're good to go.”

The Town has five Wards, with two additional council members serving as at-large representatives, along with the mayor.

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The majority of the adjustments, though not major, were made to Wards A and B, made necessary by the change in population since the 2000 Census, but lines were tweaked and shifted in every Ward.

No citizens spoke during the public hearing.

The Wards are meant to assure proportional representation, with each Ward having a similar number of residents.

“As you can see,” Town Planner, Cindy Morris, told The Herald prior to the public hearing, reflecting on the new 2010 population totals if the old Ward lines were maintained, “it's not proportionate.”

If the old Ward lines had not been changed, as required by law, Ward A would have had more than 600 residents more than Ward C, for example.

The old Ward lines with the new 2010 Census figures would have produced these Wards and population totals:

Ward A-1,973.

Ward B-1,449.

Ward C-1,327.

Ward D-1,920.

Ward E-1,547.

Those population totals exceed the allowed deviations.

The redistricting plan approved by Town Council and sent the U.S. Justice Department contains these Wards and populations totals that are much more equal:

Ward A-1,693.

Ward B-1,694.

Ward C-1,562.

Ward D-1,640.

Ward E-1,627.

The Town's redistricting plan took much longer to develop because population data initially provided by the Census lumped hundreds of residents into one area on the Longwood University campus, rather than where they actually resided.

The Town held its May 2012 council election based, as a consequence, on the existing Ward lines, feeling there was no feasible alternative, and they were cleared by an opinion from the Virginia Attorney General's office to do so.

That election saw incumbents David E. Whitus and Donald L. Hunter, both unopposed, reelected, and newcomer J. “Jamie” Davis win an unchallenged election to succeed the late Otto S. Overton in Ward E.

Even if approval of the new Wards is further delayed, Spates noted, there won't be a problem because “we don't really have any election coming up that's going to affect it for two years, almost two years.”

That would be May 2014.

The Town expects Justice Department approval before the new year.