BERLIN — With re-districting in Worcester County approaching, the town of Berlin is preparing to add a new district, but the Mayor and Council will only lend support to the current re-districting plan if a polling place is added in Berlin for the town’s new western district.
Currently, Berlin is divided into two voting districts at the county level. The town is part of the central District 2, which is the designated majority minority district. A piece of Berlin also belongs to District 3, often referred to as the Sinepuxent district. When the county goes through its re-districting process this year, the map will change so that a portion of Berlin also falls into western District 4.
This will have both pros and cons, according to Mayor Gee Williams. One downside of the change is that Berlin’s votes at the county level will be slightly dispersed.
“In Districts 3 and 4, there will be fewer voters from the town of Berlin voting for those two commissioners because they’re both split,” he noted.
The silver lining is the town will now be represented by three different County Commissioners, so that while two won’t be as dependent on winning over Berlin, all three will have some stake in gaining the town’s approval.
“I’m sure it’s possible, but I don’t think it’s probable, that someone would be likely to win and not campaign and not receive any votes at all from either the Sinepuxent district or the western district,” said the mayor.
As far as geographical divisions go, Williams outlined how the new map will look for the town.
“The corporate limits of the town of Berlin, east of US 113, would be in the central district … everything from US 113 west to Main Street would then remain in the Sinepuxent district as it currently is. And then everything that is immediately west of Main Street would then become part of the western district,” he said.
This will represent a bit of a shakeup for the town, though Williams noted that District 2, the majority minority district, would see the least level of change. The purpose of all of the re-districting is to compensate for how the county has grown from 2000 to 2010, with population reaching 51,548, a 5,005 or 10.8 percent increase from 2000, according to Census data.
One change that Williams viewed as clearly negative is how spread out polling places will be in Berlin. Besides determining County Commissioners, the districts also serve to organize where residents vote in other elections such as choosing state representatives. While District 2 will continue to use Stephen Decatur Middle School for polling and District 3 will continue on at Berlin Intermediate School, Williams was disappointed District 4 will not have a polling place in town.
“I see that as a significant disadvantage. I think the closest polling place that currently exists is the Showell fire hall,” he said.
Williams acknowledged that there are several criteria that a facility must meet before it can be designated a polling site, including easy access for the disabled. But he was confident locations would be available in Berlin for voters in the western district. He suggested the council request a polling location in town or nearby for District 4 and only vote to support the county plan if that request is granted. The council unanimously agreed.
The town plans on submitting comments as part of the upcoming series of public hearings on re-districting scheduled for next week. The first will be held Tuesday, July 30 at 7 p.m. Snow Hill at the Government Center, the next will be Wednesday, July 31 at 7 p.m. in Pocomoke City at Pocomoke High School and the final will be Thursday, Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. in Berlin at Stephen Decatur Middle School.