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The York City Council has given final approval to a redistricting plan that would keep voting districts for three of the six council seats with a majority of minority voters.
The council approved the plan last week after listening to concerns during its December meeting from an NAACP official about a second proposal that would have only two seats with a majority of minority voters.
Steve Love, an executive board member for the South Carolina state conference of the NAACP, objected to the second plan, which would have reduced the minority population in District 3 from 66 percent to 28 percent. District 3 is represented by council member Bill Miller.
The second plan would have reduced the number of minority districts on the council from three to two, although it would have increased the minority population in the two remaining minority districts.
“I think you’ve got a good plan,” state demographer Bobby Bowers told the council last week before the vote. Bowers said any approved plan must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, which he said would take 60 days.
The S.C. Office of Precinct Demographics prepared the two proposed redistricting plans for the York council at the request of the city using new population figures from the 2010 Census.
Congressional, state legislative and county councils are required by law to go through redistricing after a Census, but cities are not. However, state officials said they advise cities to consider redistricting because population changes can result in districts that are no longer balanced.
And that was the case in York. According to the Census figures, council districts range in population from 1,824 people in District 5, represented by Denise Lowry, to 947 people in District 3, represented by Miller.
State officials said that with York’s population now at 7,736, according to the Census, the ideal population for each council district is 1,289. Council members are elected by voters in each district; the mayor is elected in citywide voting.
Although the proposal approved by the council has three districts where minority voters are a majority — Districts 1, 2 and 3 — the minority population is just slightly more than half, at about 56 percent in each. Districts 1 and 2 are represented by Charles Johnson and Edward Brown, respectively.
The six council districts currently have minority voting populations that range from 23 percent, in district 4, which was held by the late Harmon Merritt, to 66 percent, in district 3, according to the most recent Census figures.
Plan one, the redistricting plan given initial approval by the council, has minority populations ranging from 13 percent in District 6 to about 56 percent in Districts 1, 2 and 3. Mark Boley represents District 6.
Love argued that it’s not necessary to have an overwhelming minority population in the three minority districts. “As long as they have a majority, over 50 percent, that’s all they need,” Love said.