Pushback over redistricting secrecy prompts public comment meeting

WINNSBORO – County council pushed through first and second readings (5-2) on a redistricting plan for Fairfield County in less than a week and without public discussion or a public forum on the plan.

At the Nov. 22 council meeting, Councilman Douglas Pauley accused Chairman Moses Bell of unilaterally submitting a draft plan without informing council members or the public.

Victor Frontroth, a cartographer with the S. C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office, attended the Nov. 22 council meeting to explain the redistricting process, but there were no maps to present for the public. Frontroth said repeatedly during the meeting that feedback from council members and the public is crucial to every redistricting plan.

“Public input is a very important part of this entire process,” Frontroth said, adding that a public hearing is required before third (final) reading.

While Bell had emailed a draft map of his plan for redistricting to council members, there were few roads identified, making it difficult to determine how specific properties were affected.

It didn’t take long for Bell’s plan to come under attack, with many citing concerns over lack of transparency and the lack of the opportunity for input from all councilmen.

“The map that was presented to you, where did that map come from?” Pauley asked Frontroth.

“That was from working with Chairman Bell,” Frontroth answered.

“Wouldn’t you agree to have seven council members, that every council member should have a say in that draft?” Pauley asked.

“We were under the impression that every council member was aware,” Frontroth replied.

“They were not,” Pauley responded.

“They were not,” Councilman Gilbert echoed.

A letter dated Nov. 23, 2021, to Bell from Frank Rainwater, executive director of the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office confirmed as much.

“The Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office (RFA) computed statistics and created a draft map based on the direction you (Bell) provided as we shared and discussed with you on November 17,” Rainwater wrote.

Bell’s assurances that his plan would meet constitutional requirements did little to sway angry residents who voiced frustration over being shut out of the redistricting process.

District 4 resident John Jones said during public comment at the Nov 22 council meeting that the county website is virtually devoid of any maps or detailed redistricting plans.

Jones feared the council majority’s endgame was gerrymandering, the manipulation of district boundaries to give one or more council members an unfair electoral edge.

“That’s not right, that’s not ethical,” Jones said.

Ridgeway resident Randy Bright said the lack of transparency over redistricting is indicative of the secrecy that surrounded budget talks, employee bonuses and other recent measures.

The day after the meeting, Bell sent the following email to council members and the media:

“We are scheduling a public forum on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m., to discuss the proposed redistricting map and the statistics that support the proposed map, purpose of districting, and public input. One of the reasons we want to have this forum is that we need for folks to understand the process and to review the proposed map along with the stats. Look forward to seeing you then. Forget the assumptions,” Bell wrote.

That meeting is scheduled to be held in council chambers. The public is invited to attend.

Pauley emailed the other council members about the need to provide the public with information prior to that meeting.

“I wanted to say if there is going to be a public hearing on Dec. 6, 2021 for redistricting, then we need to send out something soon so the public has time to plan for it.”

He also included a link (www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzOS4L8kwR8) of a redistricting in another county, “so we can see how it was done. They had 2 public hearings and the board offered 3 different maps to choose from and present to the public. It seems they took the time and made sure the public had a chance to express their input,” he wrote.

“The public is supposed to be a part of this,” Pauley told The Voice, “a big part. It’s not something Mr. Bell is supposed to work out to his satisfaction with no input from the rest of council and the public.”


  1. Ernest Eugene Yarborough, J.D. says

    Wow! Just wow!

  2. Jeff Schaffer says

    I second the motion of … WOW!

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