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County and School Board Agree to New District Lines That Mostly Affect Politicians

| September 21, 2011

General Joseph Hernandez wouldn't have found it too exciting, either. (© FlaglerLive)

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.

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.

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5 Responses for “County and School Board Agree to New District Lines That Mostly Affect Politicians”

  1. The switch-a-roo says:

    At the first meeting Craig Coffey made the statement (when questioned by school board member) that changing county commission district numbers to match school board district numbers would not affect elections. Why now the change? Will all the voters who will now have a new school board district number going to be notified by the Supervisor of Elections since information on our voters card will change? How much will this cost us tax payers? Was this cost considered when the Supervisor was told to keep a flat line budget? Was this all really necessary in these hard economic times? What difference does it matter if the numbers are the same? The numbers not matching didn’t make a difference up to this point-it’s been this way for years. I’m surprised the commissioners who claim to be responsible with our tax money didn’t object. Do they really care? Money seems to be of no object– just add it to the tax bill.

  2. rdh says:

    Who’s in charge of this county? It looks like the school board.. They can’t run the school system and now they’re running the county.. If that’s the case we’re in deep trouble.. They spend money like they’re playing monopoly..

  3. kmedley says:

    I believe if the SOE and the County Commissioners look to the statutes, the answers to many of your questions are answered. Now it is certainly understandable that in the event a polling location or a precinct changes, the voter must be notified by way of a new voter information card. The voter must be assured he or she is voting at the proper location and voting in the proper precinct. However, the statutes are clear with regards to the information that MUST appear on a voter information card. Also, keep in mind, a voter is not asked to produce the voter information card when voting. They are asked to produce a driver’s license or identification card.

    According to FS 97.071:

    97.071 Voter information card.—
    (1) A voter information card shall be furnished by the supervisor to all registered voters residing in the supervisor’s county. The card must contain:

    (a) Voter’s registration number.

    (b) Date of registration.

    (c) Full name.

    (d) Party affiliation.

    (e) Date of birth.

    (f) Address of legal residence.

    (g) Precinct number.

    (h) Polling place address.

    (i) Name of supervisor and contact information of supervisor.

    (j) Other information deemed necessary by the supervisor.

    1(2) A voter may receive a replacement voter information card by providing a signed, written request for a replacement card to a voter registration official. Upon verification of registration, the supervisor shall issue the voter a duplicate card without charge.

    1(3) In the case of a change of name, address of legal residence, polling place address, or party affiliation, the supervisor shall issue the voter a new voter information card.

    The SOE is not obligated to provide a replacement voter information card when the district number is changing. In this case the actual districts are only changing in their numbering system to be more uniformed with the county commissioner.

    It seems to me adequate notification and education of the electorate could be achieved through newspaper notices, a PSA through Flagler County TV, notices on the SOE’s website and the School Board, an article in the SOE’s newsletter, proper education of the poll workers so they are aware of the changes and even posting a notice here on Flagler Live. I may very well be wrong and there could easily be another statute I have not yet found. But this statute seems clear as to when to mail a new voter information card.

    I also believe had the SOE been more forthcoming with her budget and answered legitimate questions the BOCC presented, her budget would not have been flatlined and in the event notices do have to go out, if she can supply appropriate documentation, I’m sure the Board will assist her.

  4. Bob E. says:

    The switch a roo, or The America whichever name you choose tonight.
    The SOE was prepared for new card issues as she stated during one of the budget hearings she attended. Remember the State is also redistricting and that is not done yet, but the SOE is required to reprint and she took that into account with her budget. It looks like next year she would not be able to give out those bonus checks.

  5. kmedley says:

    Bob E. – Excellent point. I had forgotten, but now that I have reviewed my notes, you are absolutely correct. She has prepared for this in her budget. Of course, since the BOCC flatlined her budget she may attempt to claim she doesn’t have adequate funding to mail new cards once the state finishes redistricting. She also contemplates reducing polling locations.

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