At least 5,400 registered voters – possibly enough to sway an outcome – might not realize they have been moved into different Columbia City Council districts for Tuesday’s races.
About 3,900 of those residents will be able to vote in the hotly contested District 3 race, according to a count conducted Wednesday by the Richland County elections office at The State newspaper’s request. Those voters had been in District 4 before City Council redrew district boundaries last year to account for Columbia’s population growth.
The other 1,500 now live in District 2, according to the Richland County Elections & Voter Registration office tally. Those voters largely had been in District 3 before the lines were redrawn and approved by the U.S. Justice Department.
Non-mayoral City Council races, such as this year’s, typically have low voter turnout – about 8,000 to 11,000 people citywide. District races, because districts are smaller, draw even fewer voters.
About 4,700 of 16,000 registered voters cast ballots in 2008 in District 3, which includes Five Points, Shandon, Rosewood and other south Columbia neighborhoods.
The county elections office has not told the affected voters individually of their new districts because the law requires notification only when a polling place changes, said Lillian McBride, director of the office. Voters were told in a general way when City Council advertised and later adopted the new district lines.
However, the city sent notices this month in water bills that alert targeted customers to the changes. The notices do not spell out which election the customer may vote in, but the notices direct them to www.scvotes.org or McBride’s office.
Although no precincts changed as a result of the new lines, some precincts have been combined, as they often are in city elections. Mostly, though, people still will vote where they have before.
The most heavily affected areas are in precincts around the Veterans Administration hospital off Garners Ferry Road in east Columbia.
About 2,000 voters in the Brandon precinct are now in District 3, which has a four-person field of candidates working to replace outgoing Councilwoman Belinda Gergel. A mere 11 voters in that precinct remained part of District 4, the elections office tally shows.
In the Woodlands precinct – one of the city’s largest – about 1,270 voters were shifted from District 4 to District 3. Fewer than 500 voters in that precinct stayed where they were. District 4 Councilwoman Leona Plaugh does not face re-election until 2014.
The Meadowfield precinct is now weighted toward District 3, but only by about 120 voters.
Districts 3 and 4 share neighborhoods that have the city’s most white, highest-income, best-educated voters, who turn out in large numbers.
District 3 voters will select among restaurateur Moe Baddourah; law school student Daniel Coble; attorney Jenny Isgett and community activist Mike Miller.
The shifts into the largely African-American District 2 occurred in Columbia neighborhoods near or abutting the town of Forest Acres – around Harrison Road and Covenant Drive.
The biggest change is in Ward 6, where about 1,055 voters were moved from District 3 to District 2.
Ward 34 and Ward 21 saw shifts of 430 to 370 voters, respectively, that formerly were in District 3 or District 1.
Incumbent Brian DeQuincey Newman faces community activist Nammu Muhammad in the District 2 race.
District 1 Councilman Sam Davis does not face re-election for two years.
The shift among district lines does not affect voter eligibility in the at-large race.
That citywide contest features businessman Joe Azar, attorney Robert Bolchoz and financial adviser Cameron Runyan.
City of Columbia polling places for April 3 election Download and sharing options can be found in the toolbar at the bottom of this document.