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Schools learn state law won’t limit options on new districts

No action was taken on proposed redistricting of Board of Education seats during a special session Wednesday evening at East Lincoln High School.

After a presentation at last week’s normally scheduled Board of Education meeting, it appeared that the board would be forced to choose from only two options based on an advisement from Board attorney, David M. Black.

Black’s initial interpretation of the legislation sponsored by former Congressman Johnathan Rhyne was that the law prohibited splitting voting precincts during the redistricting process.

However, Black requested confirmation of his interpretation from the N.C. Attorney General’s office and from the Institutes of Government.

Late Monday afternoon, Michael Crowell of the Institutes of Government responded to Black via e-mail.

Crowell’s legal opinion is that precincts can be split during the redistricting process. He also indicated that school board residency districts do not have to be contiguously drawn.

“This guy is the leading expert on election issues for the state of North Carolina,” Black said.

“He’s the guy that the Attorney General would consult with to answer the question.”

With this new information on the table, the board members currently have 12 options that have been provided to them and has more flexibility in redrawing the five districts to comply with the new law.

However, board members believe they are missing one key piece of information that they need:  an “overlay” that shows how the proposed districts line up with the population of each existing precinct.

As a result, the board has scheduled another special called meeting for 6 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Board of Education offices on N. Generals Blvd. in Lincolnton. The Board has requested County Planner Andrew Bryant to provide them with the requested overlay at that session.

Bryant will also bring the computer and software necessary so that proposed redistricting lines can be redrawn “live” using the SmartBoard in the Board of Education meeting room to determine impacts on district populations.

Using this approach, it appears likely that additional options will be put on the table for consideration before the group chooses “three or four” to offer for public input.

Want to be involved?

Next week’s meeting is open to the public.

MARTHA K. SEAGLE, Staff writer

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