MARTHA K. SEAGLE, STAFF WRITER
The Lincoln County Board of Education narrowed 15 redistricting options down to three during a special session Thursday night.
Board Attorney David Black informed members that Bob Joyce from the Institutes of Government had advised that splitting existing precincts, which Black had previously thought was illegal, is actually preferable to forming non-contiguous districts, which have never been drawn elsewhere in the state.
Chairman Ed Hatley said his goal in narrowing down the options was to â€œmake it clear enough to the general population that mistakes wonâ€™t be made in the filing process.â€
Board of Elections Director Bill Beam and Assistant Director Crystal Lovingood were on hand to provide input regarding the impact of options on their staff and voters. Beam told board members that keeping precincts intact would minimize the resulting workload and cost for the elections office, noting that 2012 is a presidential election year and that his staff did not have budgeted funds to perform massive data entry for precinct changes.
Armed with the information from Black and the elections staff, BOE member Bob Silver motioned for the board to adopt â€œPlan 15.â€
This plan, drafted on Monday, results in a large western district â€” District 1 â€” where current members Tommy Houser and Kelly Childers reside.
District 2 under this plan includes current board members Candy Burgin and Clayton Mullis. District 3 is where BOE Chair Â Ed Hatley resides. Board member George Dellinger of Iron Station lives in this planâ€™s District 4 and Silver resides in District 5.
Mullis questioned whether any other of the proposed plans result in keeping precincts intact. Silver responded that there were other plans that did so, but that the seats of those plans are not distributed equitably.
â€œAll of the others result in three seats in the western end of the county and one area not having a current member,â€ Silver said.
In the initial vote on Plan 15, Mullis was the only dissenting vote. However, Burgin did not vote on the motion and a re-vote was subsequently called for. In the re-vote, both Burgin and Mullis dissented.
Momentarily, it appeared that the board was prepared to put forth Option 15 as its only selection for public input. However, after being reminded by Hatley that the board had committed to provide several options to the public, Options 14 and 13 were also put forth.
Plan 14 splits one precinct north of Lincolnton, but Board of Elections staff stated that splitting a single precinct would not place an insurmountable burden or expense on the county. Board members unanimously endorsed this plan.
Plan 13 splits the same precinct (as Plan 14) but by the landmark of the Startown Road. Mullis motioned for consideration of this plan, with a second from Burgin citing the logical division of the Startown Road, which can be clearly understood by voters. The motion to put this plan before the public also carried, but with dissenting votes from Houser and Childers.
The next step in the redistricting process is a public meeting. This meeting will occur in November, but the exact date, time and location have not yet been set.
Additionally, School Superintendent Sherry Hoyle stated that the three options will be posted on the Board of Education website. County Planner Andrew Bryant will provide interactive maps that can be pinpointed down to individual residence addresses for this purpose. The district will also try to provide a means for public comments to be made through this webpage.
Finally, in December the Board will make the final selection. This timeframe provides ample time for the Board of Elections staff to make any changes to precinct data in time for the June-July 2012 filing window.
All board members were present for the working meeting except George Dellinger, who had an unavoidable conflict.