Winnsboro Town Council Begins Redistricting Process

The first public step down the path of redistricting in the Town of Winnsboro began May 15 when the Town Council heard a presentation on the process delivered by Wayne Gilbert of the South Carolina Office of Research and Statistics.

The process of redistricting, or redrawing the lines that separate elected representative’s districts, takes place every 10 years following a census cycle. Based upon that data, new lines are drawn that must adhere to federally mandated criteria set in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prevent the “cracking” and “packing” of minority districts.

These criteria include creating equal populations, districts that do not dilute minority voting strength or communities of interest.

Once members of Town Council have made adjustments to the proposed plan presented, the plan will face two readings, including a public hearing, and the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Gilbert said the U.S. Department of Justice, which must eventually approve the plan, will have up to 60 days to review and clear the plan.

“Winnsboro’s next election is scheduled for next April,” Gilbert said. “So we have plenty of time to get this done and through the Justice Department before then.”

Gilbert said that based upon a town census of 3,550 persons, each of the Town’s four  districts would need to target a number of 888 persons, which the plan presented May 15 would do. Currently, Gilbert explained, there are 689 people in District 1, 1,338 in District 2, 758 in District 3 and 765 in District 4.

“The overall district plan now is way out of balance,” Gilbert said. “The overall balance should be within a 10 percent deviation between districts.”

The redistricting process using census data is used to redraw the lines and boundaries of electoral districts within a state. This process affects districts at all levels of government from local school boards, city and county councils to state legislatures in order to make districts equal in population size. The Fairfield County Council and administration recently finished their redistricting process.

The Town Council will now review Gilbert’s proposed redistricting plan and begin the process and conduct a public hearing. In the meantime, Town Manager Don Wood asked Gilbert to provide a Town map showing the current districts with the proposed districts superimposed over top. The map will be made available at Town Hall for public review.

Later in the meeting, Council went into executive session to discuss a water project, code named “Oasis,” which is a confidential economic development project initiated by Senator Creighton Coleman. They also discussed whether to allow Fairfield Central High School to minimally water the school’s softball and baseball fields, and two football fields four times a week, which would require 84,000 gallons each week. The Town is currently under a mandatory Extreme Drought Ordinance, which limits water use to household needs and bars lawn watering. The Town is awaiting a connection to provide its Blythewood customers with water from the City of Columbia, which would allow Winnsboro’s water system to recover and provide an ample supply for Fairfield County users.

After executive session, Town Council members passed a motion to postpone any final decision until the town makes the temporary connection to Columbia water. In addition, a motion was approved to replace one public safety officer who left the department due to disability. The Council also voted to explore the possibility of a contract with the Fairfield County Magistrates Court to handle the judicial proceedings of the Town of Winnsboro Municipal Court.

The Winnsboro Town Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6:15 p.m. at Town Hall, 207 N. Congress St. in downtown Winnsboro. The next meeting is scheduled for June 5. The public is invited to attend.