(Sept. 20, 2013) It was ho-hum during Tuesday’s meeting when the Worcester County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt their new voting districts.
President Bud Church called for a legislative session and a public hearing, but the public failed to materialize. There were no comments.
Interest in the reconfigured districts was nearly non-existent when three public hearings were held in August. Only nine people attended the hearings in Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke.
Despite the poor attendance, the hearings included an explanation, accompanied by maps, of the proposed changes for each county commissioner’s district. The maps had been drafted in response to changes in the county’s population as reflected in the 2010 Census, which showed a population increase of 5,005 year-round residents, or 10.8 percent, from 46,543 in 2000 to 51,548 in 2010.
On Tuesday, Ed Tudor, director of the Department of Development Review and Permitting, once again said there had been a great disparity among the districts and that led to the need to “bring the population figures into balance.”
It was important to consider the one person, one vote concept that districts have roughly the same population totals. Additional criteria used to determine the location of new boundary lines were to retain the majority minority district and to respect the boundaries of the new state legislative districts as much as possible.
Mayor Gee Williams and the Berlin Town Council had requested a change and it was minor. At their request, county staff adjusted the boundary between the Western District and the Sinepuxent District in the vicinity of Harrison Avenue and North Main Street, an area that includes just 14 houses with 35 residents.
Another change restored the southern boundary of the Ocean Pines District to follow the southern boundary of the Ocean Pines community. That change meant the district would be restored to the way it was.
And the Board of Elections, Tudor said Tuesday, had asked that numbers be attached to census blocks.
Earlier this summer, Kay Hickman, president of the Board of Elections, said some people might have to drive from Berlin to Snow Hill or Pocomoke to vote. It is possible that polling places could be added to make casting ballots less of a chore to voters.
At the request of the Board of Elections, the bill to adopt the new districts was to be passed as emergency legislation so they would be effective immediately. This would enable the Board of Elections to determine precinct lines and polling places faster.