A group of Fort Mill and Tega Cay residents are sending legislators in Columbia a message - bring Fort Mill and Tega Cay together when they redraw legislative districts this spring.
With census numbers showing more than15 percent population increase in South Carolina, the legislature will redraw S.C. House and Senate district lines, and Congressional districts, adding a new seventh congressional seat.
S.C. House Representative Ralph Norman (R-Rock Hill) said he expects the Fort Mill area to get an additional seat in the state house. The new Congressional district is expected to comprise the coastal areas, but will affect all congressional districts.
Currently, Tega Cay and Fort Mill are represented by different state House and Senate members.
Residents Al Steele, Brian Wilson and Dan Mace want that changed.
"I'm a strong proponent of strong schools and keeping them strong and I'm a big proponent of Fort Mill and Tega Cay voting as a block to elect our senate and house members because we could better convey our solidarity on how important it is," Mace said.
The group has drafted a petition and is asking residents to sign it.
So far, the petition has got the support of the Tega Cay and Fort Mill Area councils of the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as the York County Regional Chamber. The Fort Mill School Board also supports the petition.
"Currently we've enjoyed a good relationship with our current two house members and two senators, but the district is still divided and we just feel like having one representative in the future would be in the best interest of the district," said Fort Mill School Board Chairman Patrick White. Having one representative would mean "that person would be 100 percent accountable," White said.
Steele said he is worried that future representatives will have to divide their loyalties between Fort Mill and Lancaster or Tega Cay and Rock Hill.
"The next people that represent us may not be as good as they've been at representing us," Steele said.
Fort Mill and Tega Cay wouldn't have to make up the entire district, he added.
"We don't care whether you put us with Lancaster or Rock Hill. Just take us all," Steele said.
Norman advises patience while census figures are released, showing legislators where the population growth in the state has been.
Norman also argues that Fort Mill is in control of his state house seat. Of the precincts in his district, 28 percent are south of the Catawba River, 72 percent are north of the river.
"So Fort Mill really controls this seat as it is now," Norman said.
Norman said redistricting will take place sometime in April or May. Census numbers will be released in March.
That timeline suggests the person who wins state senate 16 seat, recently vacated by U.S. Congressman Mick Mulvaney, could be in place before the redistricting decisions are made. The special election is April 12.
Legislators expect whatever congressional-district map is drawn, it will be challenged in court. They are more confident legislative redistricting can be accomplished without being challenged.