Third option floated for possible redrawing of Monroe County council boundaries

A third possibility for new county council district boundaries is now getting consideration from the four-person committee that has been appointed to make recommendations on new precinct and district boundaries for Monroe County.

It’s simple to describe the third county council district option, which was floated at Monday’s committee meeting: Transfer Clear Creek Township from District 3 to District 1.

That’s the proposal labeled Option C in the graphics accompanying this article.

At its Thursday meeting last week, the committee batted around two other possibilities for balancing out the populations of the four county council districts. The populations are a bit out of kilter after the 2020 census.

Both scenarios from Thursday involved shifting areas between District 3 on the west side of the county and District 1 on the east.

The first possibility discussed by the committee on Thursday is labeled Option A in the graphics that are included in this article.

Option A is a straight-up township trade between District 1 and District 3. The first part of the trade calls for Washington Township in the north to go from District 1 to District 3. That’s at first maybe counterintuitive, because District 1 needs to have population added, not subtracted, in order to get its current population total (30,333) closer to the average, which is about 34,930.

But in exchange, District 1 would get Clear Creek Township in the south, which would give District 1 a net increase of 3,332 under Option A.

Also discussed last Thursday was Option B, which would leave Washington Township out of the mix. But under Option B, just two of Clear Creek’s three precincts would transfer from District 3 to District 1.

Measured by population, Option A and Option B are within a couple hundred people. So the discussion last Thursday focused on the question of keeping together communities of similar interest.

Option B would split apart Clear Creek Township, which is not ideal, because county council districts are supposed to respect township boundaries as much as possible.

At Monday’s meeting, committee member Hal Turner suggested Option C, which transfers all of Clear Creek Township to District 1, without any compensation for District 3.

That means Option C avoids splitting a township. But Option C would leave District 3 as the district with the smallest population of the four districts: 32,400 residents. That would be 2,775 fewer residents than the second-smallest district, which would be District 2, with 35,175 residents.

Even though Option C would leave District 3 a little bit light on population right now, committee members want to consider the potential future growth of the districts. It looks like District 3, on the west side of the county, has grown more relative to other areas. In a few years, a better balance might be restored.

It was committee member Hal Turner who suggested Option C. As Turner put it, “District 3 is the fastest growing district we have. And so it’s going to catch up to the other two fairly quickly.” Turner added, “It is going to grow fast enough that there won’t be a drastic imbalance for long.”

All of the scenarios considered so far would leave county council District 4 and District 2 boundaries as they are. That is probably welcome news to any potential candidate in the Democratic Party’s caucus to pick a successor to the resigning District 4 representative, Eric Spoonmore. If District 4 boundaries remain the same, the caucus appointee would not need to worry about getting redistricted out of the seat for the 2022 elections.

This week, the committee won’t follow the twice-weekly schedule it has been using since it started its work in mid-October. That’s because its second meeting would have come on Thursday, which is Veterans Day.

By next Monday’s meeting, committee members hope to have received some public feedback on the three options, and possibly other alternatives drawn by members of the public.

The option of creating and submitting a redistricting proposal is something made easier by the dynamic mapping tool created for the committee’s work by county GIS specialist Jared Eichmiller.

The map includes a link to an input form for feedback. The updated version of the mapping tool also includes a way to select a set of individual precincts, for which the map automatically calculates a population total. The precinct selection tool offers two options: select by drawing a box, or select by drawing a line.

The committee has already forwarded its recommendations on precinct boundaries to the county commissioners. The commissioners will have the proposal for the seven tweaks to precinct boundaries on this week’s Wednesday morning meeting agenda for a vote of approval. That will meet the state election division’s Nov. 12 deadline.

The state’s deadline for submission of council and commissioner district boundaries is Dec. 26.

Members of the committee are partisan balanced: two Democrats (Regina Moore and Ed Robertson) and two Republicans (Joyce Poling and Hal Turner).