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home : news : e-news November 30, 2021

10/8/2021 4:15:00 AM
School Board Discusses New Election Districts

Wayne Howard
Reporter


For anyone who isn't already familiar, a short bit of history: 

Back in 2010, it was decided that Lincoln County's Board of Education would include two at-large seats and five district seats.  The district seats are for election purposes--they have (at this point) nothing to do with school attendance districts.  

Following the 2020 Census, districts for some elections will have to be redrawn.  That includes Congressional districts (North Carolina's population increase means the state will get one more), some city council wards, county commission districts for some counties who use district representation (Lincoln County does not, all five seats on the Lincoln County Commission are at-large), and some school board districts.

The North Brook and Howard's Creek townships of Lincoln County actually lost population from 2010 to 2020, while the other townships, especially Catawba Springs, saw increases.  State and federal laws require that districts be similar in population.  

For Lincoln County, that means each of the five School Board districts should have close to one-fifth of the county's population, or about 17,362 people.  Andrew Bryant, who heads up the county's planning division, was asked to draw up a plan.  It was presented as Option 1 at the Tuesday night meeting.

Bryant's plan is fairly close to the current School Board districts.  It includes 17,372 people in district 1; 17,377 in district 2; 17,349 in district 3; 17,341 in district 4; and 17,371 in district 5.    The plan (Option 1) does shrink the geographic territory of district 2 on its western end. That will result, if that plan is approved, in current district 2 School Board member Joan Avery not being able to run for re-election to that seat since she would no longer live in the district.  

The districts don't have to be exactly equal; a 5% variance is allowed.  It would be possible to increase the size of district 2 westward to include Avery's residence.  If that would exceed the 5% variance allowance, another portion of district 2 could be swapped with district 1 to maintain the population balance.

School Board chairman Mark Mullen created another  plan with help from former County Commissioner Martin Oakes; that plan was presented as option 2.  Option 2 extends district 2 further east to include the Laboratory area.  It also moves the western boundary of that district further east, making Avery's residence even further out of the district.

Neither of those plans has at this point been adopted, and the board decided (although it isn't required) to allow public input and comment on those two options and other possible suggestions.  If you want to send input, you can do so at https://forms.gle/166qFkq6f1H9s61p9.

Whatever plan is approved, it will have to be submitted to the local Elections Office in time for them to get it approved by the NC State Board of Elections in time for filing for the 2022 election.  That begins in early December and ends before Christmas.  Elections Director Brad Putnam, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said he needs the plan by mid-November to get that accomplished.  

The 2022 Board of Education election will--for the first time ever--be partisan.  Rep. Jason Saine and Sen. Ted Alexander submitted local legislation which was passed by the General Assembly making the School Board elections partisan.  Avery is one of only two Democrats on the seven-member board.  Both of the options presented at the meeting put her in the same district as Myra Heavner, the other Democrat on the board.  If either of these plans is adopted, Avery couldn't run for the district 2 seat.  She could still file, but she'd have to seek the at-large seat currently held by Tony Jenkins.  Jenkins and district 5 board member Todd Wulfhorst are the other board members whose term expires in 2022.

Significantly, one question that wasn't answered (it was never asked) at the Tuesday evening session was by how much (if at all) not moving the district lines from their current parameters would exceed the 5% allowable variance.

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