Charleston Sets Sights on Redistricting

March 10, 2011

Investigative Reports

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The NerveBy Marc Knapp
Citizen Reporter

 

With boundaries of Charleston City Council districts needing to be redrawn before the next election, the possibility exists that there could be big changes ahead.

The changes would reflect the population distribution in the city over the past 10 years as measured by the recent census.

Bobby Bowers of the state Office of Research and Statistics (part of the Budget and Control Board) told the city council that to make voting more equitable, district boundaries would need to be redrawn, a process that would be undertaken by the council.

Bowers said he expected it would be a fractious process.

The new boundaries would then have to be approved by the Department of Justice before implementation.

Bowers noted the disproportionate size of some city districts. Reflecting population growth, districts represented by councilmen Gary White Jr. (District 1) and Dean Riegel (District 10) were disproportionately large, while those of James Lewis Jr. (District 3), Robert Mitchell (District 4), Louis Waring (District 7) and Jimmy Gallant III (District 5 ), where there had been little or no growth, were disproportionately small.

The question raised by the redistricting is whether it will make a difference to the re-election prospects of any of the incumbents.

For White and Riegel, it seems unlikely. But it could affect some of the others. The composition of the population of Charleston has changed over the past decade and the proportion of minorities has declined, though not dramatically.

But it follows that redistricting could lessen the percentage of minorities in those districts presently represented by the African American Council members. All these council members were elected either unopposed or with healthy majorities.

To say more without the benefit of seeing the new boundaries is speculation.