By Richard Sullins | firstname.lastname@example.org
Watching the Lee County Board of Commissioners work to define the boundaries of the county’s four electoral districts for the next decade has been a bit like watching a play where the ending is different at every performance. The audience is shown a proposal and asked to react – but before they can form an opinion, they’re shown something newer. And then something newer. And then something newer.
The board is set to meet at 6 p.m. Monday to consider a – wait for it – seventh version of a map showing how to best equally divide the population of the county into four electoral districts through 2030.
Cities and counties are required to redraw electoral maps after the Census is taken every 10 years, and Commissioners and federal law requires those districts to be as close to equal in population as possible. The process often devolves into a struggle for control of the levers of government that can sometimes result in gerrymandering, where those boundaries are manipulated to favor one group over another.
At the last meeting on October 4, Lee County’s four Republican commissioners voted as a block to move ahead with a last-minute sixth version of a plan which had been unseen by the public prior to that time and that had not available on the commission’s website when the meeting began. The new proposal’s arrival prompted Democratic Commissioner Cameron Sharpe at the time to say “it just kind of feels like to me that there is a man behind the curtain somewhere.”
On Monday, an even newer version – which has been labelled as Plan G – will be flashed onto the screen as its predecessors have been and discussed by the commission’s seven members.
This new rendering is not available as of October 16 on the county’s website, although it was provided to The Rant via a request for information and can be viewed here. Members of the public won’t have much time to react to it because the board is expected to take final action Monday on where the lines will be drawn.
Plan G is apparently the result of a compromise that was first offered during the October 4 meeting by Democratic Commissioner Robert Reives to reduce by half the number of voters that the Republican majority was proposing to move into his district through Plan F. Reives’ offer was not voted upon on Oct. 4.
Reives has represented for more than 30 years the county’s only majority-minority district. Such a district refers to a political subdivision where one or more minorities make up a majority of the local population. Since 1965, federal law has allowed the creation of majority-minority districts to prevent the dilution of the voting strength of minority groups.
Plan G is a slight modification of the version advanced by the Republican majority at the last meeting. It would move 316 voters from District 2, represented by Republican Chairman Kirk Smith, into Reives’ District 1.
Also on the agenda is recognition of the Lee County Health Department staff and a request to begin the installation of the “In God We Trust” motto at the Lee County Courthouse, the Lee County Government Center, and in commissioners’ chambers, which was approved on January 20 of this year. The October 18 meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.