Feds approve new Beaufort County political lines

147874 articles in the archive and more added every day

Feds approve new Beaufort County political lines

By KYLE PETERSON
kpeterson@beaufortgazette.com
Published Monday, January 9, 2012   |  464 Words  |  

New districts for the Beaufort County Council and the Board of Education are now in place after the county received approval of its new map Monday from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Council Chairman Weston Newton said that resolving an objection from the Justice Department could have cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and he was pleased that federal officials found no fault with the county's process.

When voters head to the polls in November, they'll notice several changes due to the new districts:

  • Ten of the 11 school board seats will be on the ballot, in part because eight incumbents were drawn into four districts, and four other districts were drawn to include no incumbents.
  • Southern Beaufort County will hold a majority of council and school board seats for the first time. Because of population shifts, six of the 11 districts will be vested in areas south of the Broad River, while areas north will have five. That ratio was reversed under the old map.
  • The new plan has only two districts with majority non-white populations; there used to be three.
  • County Council members approved the plan unanimously, and they have argued it was the best map they could draw using the required population data from the 2010 census.

    However, a petition opposing the lines gathered about 1,000 signatures before it was sent to the Justice Department last month, its organizer has said.

    The school board did not object to the map, but it is exploring whether it can minimize the plan's impact on its own membership.

    School board Chairman Fred Washington Jr. said Monday that approval from federal officials "does not rule out other options that we have."

    Justice Department approval also does not prevent private parties from suing to stop the redistricting plan.

    County Democratic Party Chairman Blaine Lotz could not be reached immediately Monday evening for comment. But Lotz said last week the party might consider such a suit as a fallback position.

    Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

    RELATED CONTENT:

    No word yet from federal officials on controversial Beaufort County redistricting plan, Jan. 4, 2012

    Petition lobbies federal authorities to nix local redistricting plan, Nov. 4, 2011

    School board faces many obstacles if it created its own districts, Sept. 13, 2011

    Anger over school board redistricting erupts in email battle, Aug. 26, 2011