For a second time in as many weeks, City Hall’s second floor council chambers hosted a public forum for Statesboro residents to view and assess the city’s plans for reforming its five voting districts.
A small contingent of about ten people met Thursday with city staff and councilmen to evaluate maps outlining proposed redistricting by Statesboro’s Department of Community Development.
The meeting offered a final opportunity for citizens to provide feedback regarding the department’s initial proposal.
“We took the comments received last week, looked at them, and will take the comments we receive tonight to plan our next steps moving forward,” said Mandi Cody, Director of Community Development. “We have done some tweaking in-house, but found nothing that is better than what we have presented here” – the maps presented Thursday were the same as those displayed in the first forum.
Statesboro residents, as many did one week ago, used the meeting to question city staff about the redistricting process and have lingering questions answered.
Staff offered an explanation as to why and how new voting districts were formed and restated intent to move forward with a final proposal next month.
“I intend, for sure, to put one or more proposals in front of council for adoption in June,” said Cody, who will meet with councilmen for additional feedback as the department formulates a final plan, she said.
The Department of Community Development is working to redraw the city’s five council districts to more evenly distribute populations in the wake of 2010 census results that revealed major growth in Statesboro, said Cody. To abide by federal laws requiring all individuals’ votes count equally, the city must balance populations across its five districts.
The proposal, changes withstanding, balances all populations within a five percent deviation and “meets all legal requirements that it will be subjected to,” she said.
According to interim City Manager Frank Parker, the redistricting plan will undergo minor changes as a result of input received from council and the community, prior to being discussed in a work session immediately before City Council’s June 7 meeting.
“We are accumulating data and will make some minor changes,” he said. “This will not be the final map, but we will only do minor tweaking before taking a vote.”
Some members of council have called for slight changes.
Councilmen Travis Chance and John Riggs would each like to see alterations to the proposal that shifts about 200 voters. Riggs’ request would allow some Wendwood Drive homes remain in his district; Chance’s proposal would shift some minority voters into District 1, increasing the likelihood of garnering government approval of the plan, he said.
Councilmen will vote on a first reading of the department’s final plan in their first June meeting, said Parker. A final proposal, to be inspected before the vote, may be completed as early as Tuesday, he said.
Council will decide on a first reading in its next session to follow a timeline allowing new districts be implemented for November’s general election, said Cody.
Redistricting plans must be awarded preclearance by the Department of Justice by August 29 for the city to utilize its reshaped districts.
Because the department reserves a 60-day time frame in which to make decisions, Statesboro must submit a final plan prior to June 29.
According to Parker, the city will have to use current districts in its upcoming election cycle if the Department of Justice rejects the proposal.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454