March 29, 2014

Rock Hill School Board drawing new election map

The boundaries of Rock Hill School District’s board of trustees single-member districts will change before the next election to balance the population sizes and demographics.

Rock Hill residents could find themselves voting in different districts for school board members in November.

Those residents would not change school districts. Rather, boundary lines for the five Rock Hill school board members elected from individual voting districts will change. The current lines, drawn up in 2000, were created using data from the 1990 census, said board chairman Jim Vining, making them outdated by nearly a quarter of a century.

Board member districts are determined by population, not the number of registered voters, Vining said.

The board voted Monday to submit a proposal to local legislators that was drawn by Bobby Bowers, director of the office of research with the S.C. Budget and Control Board.

In the current proposal, Districts 2 and 5, currently held by board members Ginny Moe and Walter Brown, respectively, get smaller, while District 3, held by Mildred Douglas, gets larger. The changes to District 1 and District 4 are less dramatic, although the boundaries shift slightly.

Interstate 77 now serves as District 5’s western boundary south of Lesslie Highway. North of Lesslie, the district extends a bit more to Anderson Road. The southern border is now around Highway 5.

District 2 is cut nearly in half. Instead of reaching as far down as Oak Park Road and Mobley Store Road, the district’s southern border moves north to York Highway and Falls Road.

District 3, which gains the most land and population of all the districts, will now span the entire southern swath of the school district, coming up as far as York Highway and Oakdale Road, while also jutting out to the area around Winthrop University.

District 1 will retain the downtown area, while reaching south to Oakdale Road and east to Interstate 7, and District 4 includes the areas around India Hook Road and Cherry Road.

Currently, population in the districts range from less than 14,000 in District 1, which includes parts of downtown Rock Hill, to almost 31,000 people in District 2 on the northwestern side of the city. Under the proposal, all districts will be between 20,000 and 23,000 people.

There is currently a non-white majority in District 1. That does not change under the proposal.

Although these changes no longer require approval by the U.S. Justice Department, school boards and local governments can still be sued for large deviations in population and demographics, Bowers said, which is why these changes are being made.

“The constitutional requirement for equal districts hasn’t gone anywhere,” he said.

In addition to the five board members elected from individual districts, two board members are chosen at-large, or by voters throughout the school district.

Bowers will host a public meeting Monday to discuss the process. No additional vote is needed to make the new districts official and they will take effect in the next election this November, in which Moe (District 2), Jane Sharp (District 4) and chairman Vining (at-large) are up for reelection.

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