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Back to redrawing board:

School officials may have hands tied on election districts by obscure statute

Board of Education redistricing plans 10 and 11, are the only ones on the table that meet an apparent requirement to avoid splitting precinct lines.

In an unexpected turn of events, eight of the total 11 plans for redrawing school board districts were taken off the table Wednesday evening.

Board of Education attorney David Black advised the Board that he had come across a law that prohibits breaking up precincts when revising districts. Only options 10 and 11 redraw the districts without breaking up voting precincts. Option 9, which was developed by board member Bob Silver, could be brought into compliance with some minor revisions.

Black told the Times-News on Thursday that he has requested further guidance from the State Attorney General and from the Institute of Government regarding his interpretation of the cited law, N. C. General Statute 163-132.1B.

This general statute describes the state’s participation in the 2010 Census and how data from the census can be used to revise districts. It states (in part) that “the State will be able to revise voting districts at all levels without splitting precincts” as a result of the 2010 Census.

Because the legislation sponsored by former N.C. Rep. Johnathan Rhyne that mandates the redistricting effort also references this statute, Black tentatively believes the county cannot split voting precincts during the redistricting process.

He expects the responses from the Attorney General and Institute of Government to either confirm or refute his interpretation of the law.

School Board members will hold a special session 6 p.m. Monday at East Lincoln High School to discuss the remaining options. Black said he will provide the members with updated legal guidance at that session.

 

Changes in the law

In Lincoln County, all residents vote for all members of the School Board. That practice will not be affected by redistricting. The impact of redistricting will be instead on those running for the available seats as they must reside in the district they are filing for.

Under the new districting law passed earlier this year, Lincoln County has five district seats and two at-large seats.  Three district seats and one at-large seat will be up for election in 2012. In 2014, two district seats and one at-large seat will be on the ballot.

In the three remaining plans on the table — Plans 9, 10 and 11 — board members Tommy Houser, Kelly Childers and Candy Burgin all live in the proposed “District 1.”  Both Childers and Houser would be up for re-election in 2012 if they choose to run. Burgin’s term is up for re-election in 2014.

Both Board Chair Ed Hatley and member Clayton Mullis live in the proposed “District 2.” Hatley’s term expires in 2012 and Mullis’ in 2014.

No current board member lives in proposed “District 3.”

Member Bob Silver, whose term expires in 2014, lives in proposed “District 4,” while member George Dellinger — whose term expires in 2012 — lives in proposed “District 5.”

How the redrawing of district lines will ultimately impact current Board of Education members is unclear at this point, as several board members publicly admitted Wednesday evening that the redistricting process is going to be much more complex and challenging than they originally thought.

 

Plan 10

Want to go?

The special called board session to discuss redistricting options is 6 p.m. Monday at East Lincoln High School. The exact room location was unknown at press time. This meeting is open to the public.

Plan 11

MARTHA K. SEAGLE, Staff Writer

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