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Iorio: Precinct lines are arbitrary

When Hillsborough County commissioners redrew the boundaries for their seats, they thought about race, politics and neighborhoods. But Supervisor of Elections Pam Iorio said they forgot one thing:

Money.

The commission's new district lines will cost taxpayers as much as $200,000 to create, Iorio said Friday, because they split some existing voting precincts. She wants the commission to redo the redistricting plan.

"It's bad for the voter to have nonsensical lines drawn, and that is what happened here," Iorio said. "This map with the division of lines is not good for the voter, and it is not good for the taxpayer."

The commission's new districts will force Iorio to create new precincts _ some that will be as small as a single street.

Each precinct costs money: Taxpayers must hire more workers on election day, and pay for voting machines, signs, furniture and phone lines, Iorio said.

The new precincts also create confusion on election day because voters often go to their old polling station.

But what can be done?

Nothing, says County Attorney Emmy Acton.

The county charter requires the commission to finish its redistricting plan by next Wednesday, and the commission has planned no meetings before then.

"I am not sure at this point that anything can be done," said County Commissioner Jan Platt, one of three commissioners who voted against the redistricting plan last week. "That is why the vote was so important the other night, and why it was so irresponsible."

Platt added: "I think it's ironic that the fiscally conservative majority has created a fiscal nightmare with this proposal."

The plan's architect, commission Chairwoman Pat Frank, questioned whether the new plan would cost as much as Iorio estimated.

"I don't think there is a reason to say the sky is falling," Frank said.

All of the plans the commission considered split some precincts. One earlier plan split up 17 precincts, and a second plan split 23 precincts, according to Frank. The adopted plan splits 25 precincts, she said.

Even though the earlier two proposals split precincts, Iorio said her staff had reviewed them to make sure the changes made sense.

"If precincts are split in a logical fashion, it's not bad," Iorio said. "There is process for creating new precincts, and it is a methodical process. Then there is what occurred, which is arbitrary lines drawn."

The commission's final redistricting plan wasn't unveiled until the night it was approved.

"We never saw the plan," Iorio said. "No one came to us and said, "Here is this other alternative.' "

Iorio's $3.5-million budget request for the next year already asked the commission for an extra $253,726 to pay for the new precincts created by redistricting. Now, she said she will have to add an extra $150,000 to $200,000.

"I firmly believe this process needs to be reconsidered," she said.

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