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Treasure Island to keep voting district configuration with tweaks to account for population shifts

TREASURE ISLAND — If you ask most residents where they live, the responses tend to be Paradise Island, Isle of Capri, Isle of Palms, Sunset Beach or Sunshine Beach.

Those are the city's major neighborhoods, and in some cases individually incorporated towns, dating back to before the city was consolidated and incorporated as Treasure Island in 1955.

Most residents assume that their voting districts line up with those neighborhoods.

Not so.

The big debate at Tuesday's commission workshop was whether voting districts should be redrawn to conform with the neighborhoods' geographical boundaries.

The answer was yes and no.

The city has four voting districts that each elect a commissioner. The fifth member of the commission, the mayor, is elected citywide.

The city's charter requires that the boundaries for these districts be reviewed and possibly redrawn every 10 years, utilizing the most recent U.S. Census figures.

The last time voting districts were changed, each of the historic neighborhoods was assigned part of the beach to their voting districts.

In order to keep the voting populations relatively even, part of the Isle of Capri (District 1) was moved into District 2, which encompasses the Isle of Palms.

Since then, the city's population has shifted, with District 2 now having 201 more residents than Paradise Island's District 3.

The solution proposed by Paula Cohen, senior planner for the city, is to adjust the district lines slightly, giving District 3 a chunk of District 2's beach area. The other district lines would remain relatively the same.

Cohen also presented another option: Align the commission voting districts with the original neighborhoods.

The problem with that solution, she said, is that the Isle of Capri has a much greater population and would have nearly 600 residents more than District 4, which encompasses Sunset Beach.

District 1 (Isle of Capri) Commissioner Phil Collins really liked the idea, however, and pushed for the city to revert to neighborhood-aligned voting districts.

"For simplicity of the residents, that would be the way to go. The residents don't know which district they live in," Collins said.

Mayor Bob Minning and District 2 (Isle of Palms) Commissioner Gail Collins agreed at first, but backed off when District 4 (Sunset Beach) Commissioner Alan Bildz suggested there could be a constitutional issue.

"It's impossible. It's supposed to be based on equal representation," Bildz said.

City Attorney Maura Kiefer also cautioned that neighborhood-based voting districts could potentially violate both the city's charter and the U.S. Constitution.

"One of the elements in redistricting is to reach mathematical precision. There is supposed to be an attempt for some type of balance," Kiefer said.

In the end, the commission agreed to keep the present district configuration with only minor changes to account for population shifts.

That means that part of the Isle of Capri would still be part of the Isle of Palms voting district. And part of the Isle of Palms voting district would shift to the Paradise Island voting district.

The commission still needs to vote twice to make the proposed new district lines official.

"Then it will be our responsibility to make sure people know who represents them," said Commission Carol Coward, who represents District 3 (Paradise Island).

Treasure Island to keep voting district configuration with tweaks to account for population shifts 10/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 2:54pm]
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