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Elections: New district lines draw curious voters

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

County officials heard few comments this week at a public meeting on proposed new district lines for Georgetown County Council and the board of education.

But the small crowd was an attentive one and with about 15 people gathered in the auditorium at Waccamaw High School, it was probably the largest that will be seen during the series of meetings, which started a week ago in Georgetown and ends June 27 in Sampit.

The meeting in Georgetown drew about five people, not counting council and school board members or employees of the county and school district. Officials speculated fewer would turn out in western parts of the county.

“I wish we could get more people interested, because this redistricting thing obviously has impact,” said County Council Member Jerry Oakley.

Redistricting is mandated every 10 years to reflect population changes shown in the census. Most of the growth that has occurred in Georgetown County since the 2000 census has been on Waccamaw Neck, so those districts changed significantly.

District 1, represented by Oakley on council and Sarah Elliott on the school board, shrank, the southern boundary moving from just above Willbrook Boulevard to Wachesaw.

District 6, represented by Bob Anderson on council and Teresa Bennani on the school board, and District 2, represented by Ron Charlton on council and Pat DeLeone on school board, also moved north putting Hagley and Pawleys Plantation in District 2. Waccamaw Neck shares District 2 with the city of Georgetown.

Glenda Shoulette, a Litchfield Country Club resident and a member of the Georgetown County Planning Commission, asked if Waccamaw Neck residents would now comprise the majority of District 2’s constituency. They will. Of 8,800 people in District 2, nearly 5,000 of those would be Waccamaw Neck residents, according to County Administrator Sel Hemingway.

It was concerns about whether his voting district would change that led Bert Cassels to the meeting at Waccamaw High this week. He lives in Heritage Plantation, the same neighborhood as Anderson, his council representative, so he will remain in District 6.

In redistricting, every effort has to be made to ensure elected officials aren’t “districted out” of serving.

Cassels said a belief that the public should be aware of what’s happening with redistricting was also part of why he attended.

“A lot of people only care when they have to vote,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter to them now, but it will 18 months from now.”

Geales Sands of Murrells Inlet said she knew little about redistricting before the meeting.

“I wasn’t sure how it all worked,” she said. “This seemed like a good place to have it all explained.”

Most of those at the Waccamaw meeting were affiliated with local political parties, including Jim Jerow, the county GOP chairman, and Nancy Kolman, who chairs the county Democrats.

The county has prepared two redistricting plans. Waccamaw Neck district lines are the same in both, but those at the meeting overwhelmingly favored the plan that would move Georgetown’s historic district from District 2 to District 4. The alternate plan moves the Kensington area out of District 2 and would unseat DeLeone.

Several people at the meeting in Georgetown last week favored the alternate plan, but county officials say it would be unlikely to receive approval by the U.S. Department of Justice, as it reduces the number of black voters in District 4.

It was a need to explore alternatives that led to the creation of the second plan, according to officials.

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State Sen. Ray Cleary will give an overview of Senate redistricting plans and the redistricting process at 5 p.m. tonight at the Waccamaw Library.

The program was arranged by the Georgetown County Republican Party and is open to the public.

“From my perspective, there are so many plans being put forth by the Senate, it’s confusing to a lot of people,” said Jerow. “A lot of people aren’t close to the redistricting process and they need to understand what’s going on here.”

The Senate has put forth 15 plans so far, Cleary said.

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