COLUMBIA– The Ward Reapportionment Committee met today and planned a public hearing that will be on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. as well as a final committee meeting on Sept. 12.
The committee needs to make a recommendation to the city by Sept. 15. With the deadline approaching, there are five possible maps, referred to as trials, that are being considered. Although the board discussed eliminating maps before the public hearing, they decided to present all five maps to the public. They are also considering sending more than one trial to the city for consideration.
The committee has to decide what precincts to move into the First Ward from surrounding wards.
Trial by Trial: What Happens With First Ward?
Trial A: Would annex the Benton-Stephens neighborhood in the east and the apartments beyond Stadium Boulevard to the west. This plan is not popular with the committee following a public hearing. However, it will still be presented with the other plans on Sept. 7.
Trial B: Would add part of the Second Ward to the First Ward by expanding north along Range Line Street.
Trial D: Would expand the First Ward south to Stewart Road. Committee member Michelle Gadbois wrote a letter to the committee about potential violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Trial D.
She wrote, “Plan D can be interpreted as unfair and non-partisan” because it would group precincts that have historically voted democrat into the First Ward. In addition, Gadbois wrote that the rate of political participation by voters added from Wards Three and Four "will greatly dilute the ability of central city minority and low-income voters to make their voices heard."
Trial E: Would expand the First Ward west but still leaves it surrounded by the other wards. This trial has not yet been presented at a public hearing.
Trial F: Would create two landlocked wards, the First and the Sixth, creating a central city core. This plan would change the borders of all six districts. This plan has not been presented at a public hearing.
All five trials will be presented at the public hearing. The committee will meet after the public hearing and before the Sept. 12 deadline.