Redistricting Public Hearing Planned

SNOW HILL – The redistricting process is moving ahead in Worcester County with a public hearing expected next month.

The Worcester County Commissioners this week voted unanimously to move forward with redistricting. While there was talk of potentially delaying the process, as candidates for the upcoming board of education election must file in February, several commissioners thought that could lead to potential problems.

“The negatives of pushing this off seem to overwhelm the positives,” Commissioner Eric Fiori said.

For the past several months, county staff have been working to review Census data and formulate updated election district maps. Jennifer Keener, director of development review and permitting, presented various map options last month. She said the districts had to be modified because of population changes throughout the county.

Keener said this week the public comment period regarding the maps had been open for four weeks and she’d received 11 comments. Two of them pertained to the maps while nine of them pertained to the timing of the process.

With that in mind, Keener said staff had created “Draft Map A” as the basis for the redistricting changed.

“Right now the discussion is how you want to proceed with the timing,” she said.

She said she could have the map ready for introduction at the Dec. 5 meeting of the commissioners.

Commissioners asked what that meant for the Worcester County Board of Elections, as its representatives had pointed out last month that they had a board of education filing deadline in February.

“The filing deadline is Feb. 9,” said Election Director Patricia Jackson. “That would give us a month and a half.”

While the concept of delaying redistricting was discussed, officials said there would be logistical challenges whenever it was done, as polling places could need to change.

Commissioner Chip Bertino said that if the redistricting map was introduced at the Dec. 5 meeting, a public hearing could be held at the next meeting and the map could be approved to go into effect immediately as an emergency bill.

“At least the public will know which district they are if they are thinking about running,” he said.

Bertino said he recognized that the timing would put a little more work on Jackson’s office but asked if the proposed timeline would be doable.

“We would have to make it work,” Jackson said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.