The fifth set of maps for redistricting Craven County’s Board of Commissioners is on the table with voter demographics that would probably get Justice Department approval.
Commissioners passed a resolution in favor of the new lines 5-2 down party lines earlier this month, but a public hearing has yet to be set.
That’s because Republican members of the board are suggesting minor tweaks to keep at least one neighborhood more intact. Accomplishing that will require another resolution before asking for public input on the first new lines to be drawn for the county since those based on the 1990 Census.
Republican Chairman Lee K. Allen and Democrat Commissioner Johnnie Sampson are the only two current members on the board who went through the last attempt to redraw lines in 2001. That attempt failed because the board could not agree on new lines that would have passed Justice Department standards under the Voting Rights Act.
As a result, the board decided to change the way commissioners were elected from countywide for all districts except minority District 3 and District 5, to election by district only.
The decision was never challenged despite a population increase of 12 percent from 81,613 to 91,463, which compromised the “one-man, one vote” requirement for voting districts.
Craven County posted a 13 percent population gain to 103,000 in the 2010 Census, creating even more population disparity in several districts, and county leaders are now trying to rectify that.
New electronic tools make redrawing the lines while preserving the integrity of neighborhoods and protecting the required minority districts considerably easier. So far, five maps have been created in the process.
Democratic commissioners Johnnie Sampson representing District 3 and Theron McCabe representing District 5 preferred the districts makeup in the fourth map, although map five is not significantly different and does not dilute their districts’ minority population.
Map 5 does, however, leave a neighborhood divided down the middle of the street in Trent Woods that was not divided in an earlier version accepted by Commissioner Scott Dacey.
He is requesting that oversight be rectified in a map version 5A and that will require another resolution to be approved by the board before a public hearing date is set.
Attempts are being made to consider changes Sampson and McCabe wish to include so the board can present a unanimous plan to county residents for their consideration.
There is no firm timetable on completing the process.