Locals, states set to redraw voting district lines
This year, many local governments, using 2010 Census demographic information that is due to be released in March, will have to redraw their voting districts to meet the “one person, one vote” standard and/or deal with the effects of state legislative redistricting. The extent of the redistricting will depend on the population changes revealed by the census, but experts say local governments should be able to handle the challenge.
The demographic data needed for the redistricting process will be delivered to states by March 31, and redistricting, where necessary, should be finished by the next election cycle. The 2010 Census showed that the development boom that took place since 2000 changed the demographics of many cities and counties considerably. “[The redrawing] is going to depend on the size and population,” says Tim Storey, senior fellow with the Washington-based National Conference of State Legislatures. “In big cities with dynamic growth, there can be many changes.”
The cost of redistricting should not be significant for most local governments, says Jacqueline Byers, director of research and outreach for the Washington-based National Association of Counties, though some may have to hire consultants if the redistricting is contentious. “Most of the time, it’s not necessary,” Byers says.
Many local governments can handle redrawing lines with in-house staff, GIS and existing resources, Storey says. There are, however, specialized redistricting applications that cities and counties can purchase for large projects.
According to Census data, South Carolina’s population increased 15.3 percent to more than 4.6 million residents, gaining a congressional seat. Bobby Bowers, director of the state’s Office of Research and Statistics with the Budget and Control Board, will help municipalities navigate any redistricting difficulties.
Myrtle Beach, in fast-growing Horry County, used to have 11 single-member districts, two of which were minority districts. Now, because of non-African American growth, none of those districts are minority controlled. “They have to protect the interest of minorities but meet the one person, one vote standard,” Bowers says. “That’s a challenge some areas will be facing.”
Dividing the pie
A congressionally defined formula divides among the states the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on population. The population count consists of the number of residents of the 50 states, plus the overseas military and federal civilian employees and their dependents living with them who could be allocated to a state. Each member of the House represents, on average, about 710,767 people.
Jennifer Grzeskowiak is a Laguna Beach, Calif.-based freelance writer.