For the first time in 30 years, some voters in Richland 1 will select their school board members from new voting districts.
State and school district officials are in the process of redrawing boundaries for Richland 1’s four single-member voting districts to accommodate population shifts. The new lines will be in effect by the school board candidate filing period in August before the November election. Richland 1’s three other board members are elected districtwide.
The voting map does not affect school attendance zones.
The last time Richland 1’s voting map was redrawn, it was 1986, and voters in the district were 56 percent white. Three decades later, black voters now make up a majority in the school district, and the racial makeups of three out of its four sub-districts have shifted significantly.
Richland 1 spans the downtown and north Columbia areas, part of the St. Andrews area, Lower Richland and parts of Forest Acres. Four of its school board members are elected based on the sub-district they live in. The other three are elected at large by all voters in the school district.
Populations in the four voting districts have changed unevenly in the past three decades, particularly in Lower Richland, where the voting-aged population has swelled by nearly 30 percent.
Meanwhile, the populations in Richland 1’s three other voting districts have shrunk, even though the population has grown in downtown Columbia in recent years. The change is most noticeable in District 2, which stretches across north Columbia from Eau Claire east toward Forest Acres.
School districts are required to examine, but not necessarily to redraw their voting maps after each 10-year census to remain in compliance with federal and state voting laws, said Will Roberts, director of mapping for the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, which draws voting boundaries.
“There will be small changes,” said Susan Williams, a lawyer for Richland 1. “If you have one district, for example, that has a very large population, you can dilute the voting strength” of people living in that district.
State legislators will vote to approve one of several options of new voting maps. Richland 1 officials received public comments on various drafts of the new map and have recommended a version to lawmakers that closely resembles the current voting map.
Their recommended map, though, evens out the population distribution in each of the four voting districts to roughly 50,000 voters each. The racial makeup of the four sub-districts would remain roughly the same, with District 3 – covering the University of South Carolina area, Five Points, Shandon, Rosewood, Lake Katherine and parts of Forest Acres – remaining the sole white-majority sub-district.
Another version of the redrawn voting boundaries, which has not been officially introduced as part of a legislative bill, would reorganize Districts 2 and 3, making both of them majority-white voting districts.
Yet another version of the boundaries, which is not preferred by Richland 1 or state officials but was drawn solely based on census data, would split the Lower Richland area into two separate voting districts.
The Richland County Voter Registration and Elections office has not received any directions as far as notifying voters of new district boundaries, elections director Samuel Selph said, but the office is aware of Richland 1’s pending new voting lines. State law does not require the elections office to notify voters when their districts change, only when their precincts change, Selph said.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.
Population change in Richland 1
While the population has grown in downtown Columbia in recent years, the overall voting-aged population in Richland 1 has shrunk by about 2,000 over the past 30 years. But the population has shifted disproportionately in different areas of the county.
The statistics are based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 1980 and 2010.
District 1, covering northwestern Richland County: in 1986, 47,257 people; in 2016, 46,713.
District 2, covering north Columbia from Eau Claire east toward Forest Acres: in 1986, 51,571; in 2016, 40,943.
District 3, covering most of downtown Columbia, parts of Forest Acres: in 1986, 50,991; in 2016, 46,758.
District 4, covering Lower Richland: in 1986, 47,407; in 2016, 60,948.
Source: S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office