County and School Board Agree to New District Lines That Mostly Affect Politicians
FlaglerLive | September 21, 2011
The Flagler County Commission and the Flagler County School Board agreed to new voting districts at a joint meeting Wednesday, almost ending what has been a calm, controversy-free process of drawing new district boundary lines. The process is required every 10 years to maintain districts balanced by population and relative geographic homogeneity.
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The changes for residents are minimal, particularly since voters don’t choose commissioners or school board members according to districts: every eligible Flagler County voter gets to vote for every candidate in most races. The only limitation is in county commission primaries, though even then Republican or Democratic voters cast ballot for their candidate county-wide, across district lines. (The commission is partisan, the school board isn’t).
School and county redistricting also doesn’t affect any other political office: Palm Coast redistricted in July, and the Legislature—where redistricting is the most political and consequential, and most likely to be corrupt or tendentious—is thick into those redrawings statewide.
Within Flagler County, redistricting affects mostly elected officials or would-be elected officials: their permanent address must be inside the district they represent, or hope to run from. They run the risk of being bumped out of their district through redistricting, just as would-be candidates may see their hope of running from a particular district evaporate, depending on where the lines are drawn.
Not surprisingly, none of the incumbents was affected by redistricting: commissioners and school board members were primarily going to look out for their own political prospects, and did so, though they didn’t have much work to do. County Administrator Craig Coffey was tasked with the delicate job of leading the map-making for both sets of politicians. He did so with efficiency and humor throughout, producing six options that gave the politicians plenty to choose from.
That the overwhelming majority of residents and voters are not affected by local redistricting may explain why few people have taken note of the process or addressed it, when both the county and school board provided for public comment, except for residents of the Dunes Community Development District and the Hammock. Those residents briefly feared that redistricting would split their representation in half. In fact, an earlier set of preferred maps that the county and school board had adopted could have done just that. The Dunes and the Hammock spoke up. Their issue was addressed. Dick Ryan of the Dunes Community Development District and a representative from the Hammock each gave their thanks to the two panels.
The two governments started with six options. They narrowed those down to three on Aug. 17, and picked one on Wednesday—the so-called Option 6, which keeps the Dunes whole. (The powerpoint presentation is below.) Option 4, originally the two governments’ top pick, became their least favored Wednesday.
The next step: each government will draft resolutions ratifying the results by vote at meetings soon, likely in October.
The two governments also wanted to match each district with the same number. Currently, the school and county districts follow the exact same geographic boundaries, but are numbered differently. For example, County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin’s district is the same as that of School Board member Trevor Tucker, but McLaughlin’s is District 4, Tucker’s is District 3. Later this year, all districts will follow the county’s numbering system. (The commission’s district numbers can’t be changed without bumping commissioners out of office. The same rule doesn’t apply to school board districts.)
“You don’t have to do that tonight,” Coffey told both groups. “You have to go through like a month-long process of notification and public hearings and some other things that you could do independently of this decision.”
The 40-minute joint meeting took place at the Government Services Building in Bunnell, in the main chamber where each government usually holds its meetings. The question was who would sit where. The matter was resolved when both sets of politicians sat on the dais, crowding together where they normally sit, with Peterson keeping his middle-throne seat. School Board member Colleen Conklin did not attend, being in North Carolina for a national surfing competition her sons are competing in.